The global trend toward authoritarian governments has greatly accelerated during the so-called coronavirus pandemic. Eighteen months ago, no one could have predicted unprecedented lockdowns, arrests of people not wearing masks, or enforcement of mandates with experimental vaccines. What can we expect in the next 18 months?
These alarming trends are the warning signs of what a world without freedom would look like. In World War ii, the United States prevented a tyranny from wrapping its tentacles around the world. Then it fought communism and sought to safeguard democracy, free press and free speech. The dollar rose as the reserve currency, enabling free trade and aid for countries in need.
Fundamental principles the U.S. once stood for are under attack—including free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, the free flow of cash. Subverting these principles erodes the foundation of free society.
Now these pillars of our current world system are crumbling. The one power that restrained authoritarianism is falling. The United States is virtually the only country in the world in which leading politicians have successfully resisted elements of the new covid tyranny. But even the U.S. does not have the same belief in freedom that it once had. The spirit of tyranny is rising again—even within the U.S.—this time equipped with cameras, fingerprint sensors, biometric data, financial data and monitoring capabilities that megalomaniacs once only dreamed of.
As the United States fails to stand up for the freedoms it once defended, another power is filling the void. The Chinese Communist Party has already implemented a fearsome surveillance state. But during the days of the coronavirus, another, lesser-feared power has revealed its true face. Europe is pushing for global control of the movement of every person, the exchange of every word, and the transaction of every cent.
The authoritarian response to covid is actually a symptom of a world rejecting U.S. leadership. After Afghanistan, that leadership carries less weight then ever—and we can expect a more authoritarian world as a result.
Ignoring the Science
An Imperial College–London study released in March 2020 was the study that prompted lockdowns in the U.S. and United Kingdom. It was wrong. Its worst-case scenario predicted that 2.2 million Americans and half a million Britons would die. It suggested a peak in daily deaths after about three months. Applying the same model to Sweden, Swedish scientists predicted 85,000 deaths if the country did not lock down. But the Swedish government refused to be scared into submission. To this day, not even a third of these numbers have been reached. Sweden saw less than a fifth of the projected number. By August of this year, Sweden was nearing zero covid-19 deaths a day, after experiencing fewer than 15,000 total covid-related deaths.
Comparing restrictive California with open Florida is telling. As of this past March, in Florida, 8,979 people per 100,000 were infected; in California, that number was 9,079. The death rate in Florida was 146 per 100,000; in California, 135. Clearly, lockdowns are not the cure-all they were purported to be.
Still, many elites say the average person does not understand the science and needs to trust government experts. Thus, even with the pandemic on its way out, we are seeing an intensification of the attack on people’s liberties. Some governments now say that only the vaccinated should have basic freedoms. Refuse the jab, and you can’t travel, meet in groups, patronize restaurants, exercise or, in some cases, even work. Leaders claim this is necessary to stop a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” that risks the lives of all.
Leaders are finding a succession of excuses to block people from everyday life. Their motive is not public health but absolute control.
Look particularly at Europe. There, leaders are pushing for control of the movement of every person, the exchange of every word, and the transaction of every cent. “Europe’s response to the pandemic is accelerating the fulfillment of one of the most crucial end-time prophecies of your Bible!” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in our July 2020 issue. He called this “one of the most important effects of the global panic over covid-19.”
Europe is seeking absolute control, and there is a profound reason.
The Italian government introduced a “Green Pass” on August 6, without which citizens are barred, fined or arrested for many normal activities. The app was reportedly downloaded 20 million times in its first three days. It is now mandatory for long-distance public transport and for those who work at schools.
The vaccination efforts have the blessing of the Vatican. Pope Francis was vaccinated in January and requested his Green Pass as soon as they were introduced.
At first, only the vaccinated, recovered or tested could use the Green Pass. Then European governments took the next step: They removed the option to prove you had tested negative or made tests an impossible financial burden.
But tens of thousands have protested the pass. Giorgia Meloni, party leader of the Brothers of Italy, said this “ghastly” trend is “unconstitutional madness. For us, individual freedom is sacred and unassailable.” She called it the “last step toward the realization of a George Orwellian society” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, July 14). Yet such Orwellian measures are sweeping Europe.
On August 20, France made its health pass compulsory for employees who work in the leisure, cultural, catering, long-distance transport or commerce sectors. Anyone who works face-to-face with the public must get the jab or take a covid test every 72 hours at their own expense. Around 1.8 million people are affected by the new law.
Millions of people fear exclusion from work, from school, from most of society because they have not taken the vaccine. Thousands have demonstrated against these measures. Videos went viral of police brutality against demonstrators. The German government has responded by putting certain citizens under nationwide surveillance: monitoring meetings, intercepting e-mails, screening bank accounts and tracking financial flows. Those surveilled are not right-wing extremists or terrorists but in some cases just critics of the government’s coronavirus measures.
These measures do not save lives. But they do increase government control.
Europeans are getting accustomed to authoritarian rule, police control and intimidation tactics. Vaccine passports ensure the government knows where you are at every point of the day. The technology being used today to track, check and exclude people from activities of the government’s choosing could easily be used for whatever purposes authorities want.
The virus may vanish, but will the government control apparatus vanish with it?
Ross Clark warned for the Spectator that vaccination passports and electronic ID cards are quickly morphing into something like China’s social credit system, which blacklists people for antisocial offenses and rewards them for good behavior. The UK, he wrote, has already stepped in that direction: “[T]he government is planning to introduce a health app in January which will monitor our shopping, our exercise levels, or intake of fruit and vegetables—and reward us with virtue points which we can exchange for discounts, free tickets (to what kind of event is not clear) and other goodies” (July 24).
What we are seeing in Europe in particular portends worse to come. Mr. Flurry warned: “The people of Europe are being conditioned to accept more tyrannical leadership” (op cit). In fact, this trend lays the foundation for modern tyrannies described in Bible prophecy.
While governments are deciding which citizens can and cannot take part in social events and business, they are also undertaking a related project: waging a war on cash.
Banks can track credit-card and debit-card spending, and can pass this information on to governments. Cash, however, provides an easy way around that. This could soon change.
In January, the European Central Bank and the European Commission agreed to cooperate on the technical implementation of a digital euro. A 2021 survey by the Bank for International Settlements (bis) found that 86 percent of central banks are researching a potential digital currency, 60 percent are experimenting with the technology, and 14 percent have already deployed pilot projects. These technologies promise a more secure and efficient financial world. Yet they also give government central banks absolute control.
Digital currencies would allow governments to track every cent in the financial system, from businesses to the digital wallets of individuals.
Some leaders may have good intentions, but their desire for control is spinning quickly out of control.
On Oct. 19, 2020, the International Monetary Fund hosted a discussion on how central bank digital currencies might facilitate cross-border payments. In the discussion, the bis’s general manager, Agustín Carstens, a powerful figure in global monetary policies, said: “We don’t know who’s using a $100 bill today, and we don’t know who’s using a 1,000-peso bill today.” But with the central bank digital currency, “the central bank will have absolute control on the rules and regulations that will determine the use of that expression of central bank liability, and also we will have the technology to enforce that.”
Today, leaders will arrest you for taking a walk. Imagine how they will use “absolute control” over your cash flow and “the technology to enforce that.”
Former German Economics Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg wrote a thesis about the high level of corruption in cross-border payments. His solution to criminals and terrorists abusing the ability to send payments is the same as Carstens’s: more supervision and introducing digital currencies that are tightly controlled by governments.
Money Metals Exchange director Clint Siegner warned that with such use, government digital currencies become “a tool for eliminating privacy and for central bankers to force citizens to use currency exactly when, where and how they are told.” He said it gives bureaucrats extraordinary power: “Officials could limit spending to certain geographic boundaries, and thereby impose a restriction on travel. They could pick winners and losers, favoring some merchants or industries or crushing others” (July 12).
People like Carstens insist they only want to target criminals, but say they’ll protect people’s freedoms. But these were the same promises we heard when covid passports were introduced. Despite assurances that they would not curtail freedoms, they are proving to do just that.
The war on cash is a war on liberty. It is no coincidence that politicians are pushing for a digital euro and digital passports at the same time.
There have been a lot of problems with the U.S.-led financial system. But look at the systems now competing to replace the dollar. A switch to a euro- or renminbi-based financial system would not merely change the color of the paper that people use. It would change the character of the whole system.
America was in part founded on the basis of religious freedom. Many ancestors of U.S. citizens fled across the Atlantic because of the religious persecution they suffered in Britain and Europe. This ideal of religious freedom has uniquely shaped America. In the decades since its founding, many other countries have followed America’s example to some extent, giving religion a small part in public life.
Now, however, this trend is reversing. This development, more than any other, reveals where our world is heading. And again, it is Europe we must watch closely on this point.
On July 23, France’s National Assembly passed a new law aimed at regulating religious groups, particularly Islamic ones. The bill seeks “to strengthen the respect of the principles of the republic”; it strictly requires these groups to report to the government and restricts wearing religious symbols in public. (Interestingly, just the week before, President Emmanuel Macron visited the historic church of Notre Dame de Lourdes—the first pilgrimage of a French head of state since 1941. So while some religious activity must be limited, endorsing Catholicism is apparently fine.)
Across Europe, secular and religiously pluralistic nations are encouraging Catholicism at the same time that their tolerance for other religions shrivels. The Hungarian government, while taking strict stands against immigration (which is mostly Islamic), has entered a strong cooperation with Catholic and Protestant churches. Next door, Austria under Catholic Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has done the same. Germany, after 16 years of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rule, could also soon have a staunch Catholic chancellor with Armin Laschet.
One can understand why historically Catholic Europe would seek to clamp down on the spread of Islam within its borders given the flood of immigration it has absorbed and the Islamist terrorist attacks it has suffered in recent years. But this trend must be viewed in light of Catholicism’s defining role on the Continent.
For centuries, Europeans lived under the dictatorial rule of the Holy Roman Empire as it experienced a series of revivals and collapses. This history is filled with bloody crusades, inquisitions and pogroms, motivated by a church that felt responsible to convert humanity to the “only true religion.” And it repeatedly used the military and political muscle of civil leaders to enact its aims.
Unbeknown to many, the U.S. vanquished one of these revivals by defeating Adolf Hitler in World War ii. That was the sixth of seven prophesied resurrections of this empire. (These resurrections are explained in our free booklet The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy.)
In our day, “when the transgressors are come to the full” and because of the world’s sins, God is allowing this ancient, bloody empire to rise again, one final time (Daniel 8:23). Prophecy shows that it will be this church-state system that replaces U.S. dominance in the world.
As it has done so often in the past, this empire will suppress freedom, trample on human rights and establish a dictatorial religious regime.
The Beast of Revelation
America and Britain have upheld principles of relative freedom for 200 years. We take them for granted. We see a free world as the default. But we’re already seeing a world with radically different political philosophies. As future emergencies arrive, the answers will be more authoritarian. And it’s clear America lacks the strength to go against that grain.
Bible prophecy confirms this, giving a shocking picture of a post-American world.
All the authoritarian trends sweeping through Europe take on far greater significance in the context of the Bible’s prophecies of Europe’s future.
The final rise of this ancient European religious empire will bring specific consequences for individuals around the world. Revelation 13:17 warns of a time coming when “no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
Revelation 18 describes the financial system led by this new power. It dominates the world, and businessmen benefit—but it is very different from America’s. Trade goods includes “slaves, and souls of men” (verse 13).
The Bible symbolizes this government as a “beast” (request Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast? for proof). Those who refuse to accept the mark of this beast will not be able to hold a job or engage in business. Today, some people believe that vaccine mandates are this “mark of the beast.” Others believe that a digital currency will be this mark. Indeed, these can both lead to people being excluded from business. But they are not what this prophecy is referring to. (Read our article “Coronavirus and the Mark of the Beast” to learn more about this.) Still, the infrastructure we currently see rising may be the means through which the mark of the beast is enforced.
The fall of the U.S. opens the way for this beast to rise once more. Thankfully, however, prophecy also reveals that this empire will be confronted and supplanted by Jesus Christ Himself, who will then rule this world as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:15-16).