“In Modern Europe, Most Roads Lead to Brussels,” announced a headline in a recent article by Breffni O’Rourke written from Prague and published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Oct. 31, 2002). The title was making reference to the old saying from the days of the Roman Empire, “All roads lead to Rome”—replacing that ancient capital with the headquarters of today’s European Union, Brussels, capital of Belgium.
Yet, despite the fact that in this latest resurrection of a federalist Europe it is Brussels and not Rome that is the beating bureaucratic heart of the EU, one cannot help but draw a connection between it and the old Roman Empire.
The person who posed these comparisons just 15 years ago, however, would have been a laughingstock. Germany was divided between East and West, the Soviet Empire had a whole clutch of Eastern European nations in its realm, and the Cold War was at its peak.
Yet, even so, one man who had lived through most of the 20th century, and who died 16 years ago this month, consistently declared for almost 60 years that the whole world would one day witness the final resurrection of that old “Holy” Roman Empire.
Speaking of the time leading up to the Second World War, in the very first edition of the magazine of which he was to be founder and editor in chief for 52 years, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “… Mussolini’s whole aim is to restore the ancient Roman Empire in all its former splendor, power and glory—and Rome ruled the world!” (Plain Truth, Feb. 1934). Consistently, for the ensuing five years, Herbert Armstrong predicted Mussolini’s rise to lead a resurrection of the old Roman Empire.
By 1938 it was apparent that fascist Italy was in alliance with Nazi Germany. Within this context Herbert Armstrong wrote, “[W]e shall witness the mighty Roman Empire reborn—the fascist-Nazi dictatorships of Europe. It is the rebirth of the Roman Empire that the events of these past few days concern” (Plain Truth, March 1938). Then only months away from the start of World War ii, Herbert Armstrong again wrote warning of events on the rise in fascist-Nazi Europe progressing toward the prophesied rise of the Roman Empire, an empire known throughout its history for destroying more than it ever built. As time progressed, it became apparent to Armstrong that Mussolini, having declared himself emperor of a revived Roman Empire, was indeed fulfilling the prophesied sixth resurrection of that ancient Iron Empire (Rev. 17:10).
But Mr. Armstrong did not stop there. He understood, knowing that he had “the more sure word of prophecy” (ii Pet. 1:19) and that the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35), that there remained a seventh and final resurrection of the Roman Empire yet to be fulfilled, even as Mussolini was strung up and Nazi Germany lay in abject defeat. Thus he continued on, against all the gainsayers, declaring that these ancient allies, Italy and Germany, long back in history having reached an accommodation where Germany became the pope’s traditional protector, would combine again in an even mightier effort to resurrect the Roman Empire to a semblance of its former earthly glory and power.
We project our focus forward to 1983, when Herbert Armstrong was in the final years of his globe-encompassing ministry. It was a time of aggressive diplomacy by Pope John Paul ii in his efforts to break the Soviet hold on his home country, Poland.
What you are about to read was written eight years before the collapse of the Soviet Union! Here is the visionary perspective Mr. Armstrong portrayed fully 19 years ago: “The pope’s dramatic visit to his native Poland has added greatly to setting the stage for the prophesied reunion of Europe—the resurrection of the medieval ‘Holy Roman Empire’” (Member and co-worker letter, June 22, 1983).
There is the consistency of that same message which Mr. Armstrong published in the first edition of the Plain Truth magazine back in February 1934. But notice, in his letter of 1983, how up to date that message was: “The pope’s visit to Poland … is a most significant event in breaking loose probably five Soviet satellite nations in Eastern Europe, so they may be united by the Catholic Church with five Western European nations. It will become a colossal third world power, possibly greater than either the Soviet Union or the United States” (ibid.).
Now, let’s come right up to the year 2003. Look at what has happened! Within less than a decade of Herbert Armstrong’s visionary prediction, all of the old Soviet states west and south of the Ukraine have broken loose from the throttle-hold of Russia and all are either awaiting accession to full membership of the European Union, or are already, as in the case of the Balkan states, virtual colonies of that federating union of European nation-states!
Small wonder that we read a headline, “In Modern Europe, Most Roads Lead to Brussels,” the EU headquarters.
But, even more significant, respected geopolitical analysts are now making the very same connection between the EU and the old Roman Empire! “Polish analyst Alexander Smolar [said] that there is an ‘interesting’ comparison between the modern EU and the early medieval Holy Roman Empire. ‘The Holy Roman Empire was a very complex structure, with divided sovereignty, with a hierarchical structure of power, from emperor to the kings and landlords. [It was] a very complex power structure with integrating forms …. We can say that the European Union, which is constructed also as a complex structure, has certain powers attached to the pan-European authorities’” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, op. cit.).
This same observer makes another connection, comparing the core nations of the EU to the union of European states which formed the catholicized “Holy” Roman Empire: “… Smolar noted the historical quirk that the territory of the six original founding states of what is now the EU—France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg—approximately matches the empire of Charlemagne, the founder of the Holy Roman Empire who was crowned in Rome in the year 800” (ibid.; emphasis mine throughout).
In that letter of June 1983, Mr. Armstrong envisioned a united Europe becoming “a colossal third world power, possibly greater than either the Soviet Union or the United States.” Compare that vision of almost 20 years ago with the following assessment written just after the EU summit in Copenhagen last month. Commenting on the EU’s decision to proceed with accepting 10 more nations into its membership, the report declares, “The EU is already a complex and colossal structure …. [I]t will grow into a conglomeration of 25 sovereign nations with a total population of 450 million. The combined current gross national product of all the nations that will be involved is more than $9 trillion, close to that of the United States. That will give the EU a larger population and more ethnic complexity than either the United States or the old Soviet Union ever had. … [I]t will also become a vast force in international affairs. The new European colossus will be comparable in diplomatic and economic clout with the United States and China …. It will, after all, have 25 different votes in the United Nations …. It could be a global colossus indeed, and in deed” (United Press International, Dec. 15, 2002).
Note the congruence in the language used by Herbert Armstrong envisioning this colossus of Europe 20 years ago, and that used by the upi reporter observing the current reality of this emerging geopolitical giant.
Yet this same report described this complex mishmash of nations, uniting into a European empire, as “vast and ramshackle, yet steadily consolidating.”
It is this “vast and ramshackle” nature of this European hybrid mix that is currently threatening crisis on the Continent. The stimulus for the crisis emanates from the EU’s present capital—Brussels.
A Tale of Two Technocrats
Back in 1974, two Roman Catholic politicians were voted into power in the EU’s leading nations, France and Germany. The French elected Valery Giscard d’Estaing as their president; Germany elected Helmut Kohl chancellor.
In addition to their religion, these men had one other characteristic in common: They were technocrats rather than statesmen. Each held agreement with the other that nothing, and certainly not the will of the people, would stand in the way of their dream of creating a federal European superpower.
These two men oversaw a period of rapid change within the EU where decisions were made behind closed doors and then steamrolled right over the heads of the national electorates within the Union. The method they used was to encapsulate changes in law, custom and practice within a series of treaties which other member nations were cajoled and bullied into signing. Germany rose to the fore in this process, following the union of East and West in 1990.
“[T]he new German powerhouse seemed like a potential threat to peace and stability throughout the Continent. Under Kohl and his foreign minister, Genscher, it was in fact a threat. The new Germany manipulated diplomatic recognition of its old Nazi ally, Croatia, triggering the bloody war in Yugoslavia that is still simmering” (www.germanyalert.com, Oct. 28, 2002).
It was the hope of other EU member nations that Germany could be so bound within various treaties that it would not pose a danger to them. These treaties then needed to be underpinned by a plethora of edicts of enactment. This “gave birth to a newbureaucracy in Brussels, and that new order promptly began flexing its muscles. The EU chipped away at national sovereignty with one treaty after the other, almost always adopted without the consent of those who were to be governed” (ibid.).
Most particularly, it was the drive to eliminate sovereign currencies, replacing them with a single federal currency, that showed the blatant disregard for both democracy and the will of the average European citizen. “[W]hen it came to introduction of the euro, member states battered down the fundamental resentment of ordinary citizens with glitzy propaganda that was filled with lies” (ibid.).
Thus Germany was able to ramrod its will upon the Union within the Brussels bureaucracy. But no institution can happily endure on such a foundation. And today, while work at federalizing Europe continues in earnest, problems are mounting just as quickly.
Crisis on the Continent
This year will be the European Union’s year of crisis. Continental Europe’s three leading national economies—those of Germany, France and Italy—are under great strain, with Germany sliding rapidly into the red. Brussels is thus faced with a huge problem. Having spun the great lie to the 12 emu members about the need to join the European Monetary Union (thus sacrificing sovereignty in monetary policy), the technocrats now have to figure out how to play down the fact that Britain, which has so far refused to adopt the euro, has the fastest-growing economy within the EU!
The prospect of crisis looming within the Union, only 16 months away from accepting 10 more nations with an additional 75 million citizens, overshadows Brussels.
Germany leads the tales of gloom. “The leaders of some of Germany’s biggest companies believe their country faces its worst crisis since the war amid deep skepticism about the ability of the government to solve Germany’s problems. … ‘Not since the end of the war have conditions been as bad as today,’ said Alexander von Tippelskirch, head of the ikb Deutsche Industriebank, a business lender” (Financial Times, Dec. 15, 2002).
Such comparisons will not help public opinion within the 10 nations set for accession in May 2004. All 10 must hold a referendum before their accession can be ratified, to legitimize the process in the eyes of their national electorates. Referring to the referendum process, EU Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen told the bbc, “Negotiations are finished, public debate will begin, and I think it is very important to tell European citizens that this is the best-prepared enlargement in the history of the European Union, that nobody must be afraid” (Baltic News Service, Dec. 14, 2002). That is a huge lie!
Rumbles from within the EU member nations were heard during the Copenhagen summit, further exacerbating the feeling of gathering crisis. “EU critics from 20 European countries warned against the creation of a European superpower and criticized the EU approach to candidate countries in the accession talks. … The EU-critical declaration points out the EU-regulated areas of explicit concern including the lack of democratic legitimacy and undermining of democratic nation-states by the EU. … The last part of the declaration calls for equal financing and equal access to media for the no and yes camps in referenda related to EU issues” (www.EUobserver.com, Dec. 11, 2002).
The EU critics have very fresh in their minds the undermining of the democratic process that was blatantly obvious to all with the rigging of the yes vote in Ireland on the issue of monetary union. The Irish government and the EU in concert threw 10 times the money at promoting a yes vote, compared to that spent on the no campaign.
Watch for similar underhanded tactics to be used in the upcoming referenda within the 10 aspiring EU nations to counteract public opinion dubious of joining a Union in economic crisis.
Fixing the Crisis
As domestic affairs within the EU—in particular the growing economic crisis—threaten its cohesion, there are two elements outside of domestic politics which will work in the future to bind this fractious union of European states together for a brief few years. One has to do with the EU’s foreign policy; the other involves its religion.
Pointing to the most significant element of EU foreign policy, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported, “The most recent extension of EU activities is in the field of foreign and security policy, including the development of a military force” (op. cit.).
The principal means of enacting this policy has been the creation of a European federal police force, already drafted into action in the Balkans, and the European rapid reaction force, set to deploy in its first operation, also within the Balkans, next month. In a startling development last year, the old German general staff, which planned and oversaw aggressive military strategy in the world’s two greatest wars, was resurrected.
Then, last month, alarm bells rang as, using the events of September 11, 2001, as their pretext, Brussels technocrats drafting the European Federal Constitution suddenly exposed their plan to establish a “‘Euro-Pentagon’ in Brussels commanded by a defense chief able to launch military operations anywhere in the world” (Daily Telegraph, London, Dec. 17, 2002).
The plan calls for the appointment of an EU defense secretary with a support staff linked to an EU command-and-control center and an EU intelligence agency possessing satellite surveillance capability. Of deepest concern, given Europe’s history of aggressive warfare, is a clause in the plan which indicates that “The force would have a broad mandate to ‘dispel hostility,’ a term that seems to open the door to much wider warfare than the existing menu of humanitarian tasks” (ibid.).
Simply put, the rearmament of Europe will eventually supply the answer to the EU’s mounting economic crises, as it serves to fire up the furnaces of industry in preparation for the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies on the future “king of the north” (Dan. 11:40)—the resurrected old Roman Empire.
This monolithic federation of states, regardless of its present crises, is simply destined to become the most significant influence on the global economy in the near future.
Binding the Union
As Mr. Armstrong explained, this economic powerhouse is prophesied in the book of Revelation: “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:18).
This “great city” is described in the same passage as possessing a mystery, of having a direct relationship with Babylon, the seat of all pagan religion (v. 5). Bible students understand that chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation reveal a great church spiritually dominating a world superpower with a recognized state religion. This is that ancient “Holy” Roman Empire, in its final resurrection, comprised of 10 groups of nations ruled by 10 kings (Rev. 17:12).
In the minds of dedicated Catholic Europhiles, the conclusion of the Treaty of Versailles at the close of World War i, and the division of Europe between the Allied powers—the U.S., Britain and Russia—at the Yalta Summit in 1945, were but aberrations in the continuum of history. There is a generation in Europe, steeped in the history of that continent, that has planned for decades to see Europe returned to its old Holy Roman configuration, one that spreads from the North Sea to Africa, from the British Isles to the Ural mountains—and, most importantly, embracing the city of Jerusalem!
No person of this generation is more committed to that vision than Pope John Paul ii. Upon receiving the new Hungarian ambassador, Gabor Erdody, to the Vatican last October, the pope declared this vision to his audience: “The Holy See is pleased before the prospect of this enlargement of the Union, which should permit the progressive reestablishment of the unity of the European continent, broken with the Yalta division and the closing of the Soviet bloc,” he said (www.zenit.org, Oct. 24, 2002).
In December, the pope was moved to mouth his strongest words yet about recalcitrant citizens who are publicizing their resistance. “According to Le Monde, the pope is planning to ‘break Catholic resistance’ to EU membership. On December 8, he called on European leaders to conclude negotiations on accession as quickly as possible …” (European Foundation Intelligence Digest, Dec. 12, 2002).
Calling on his priestly troops to take the front line in brow-beating their parishioners into a yes vote for accession to EU membership, the pope mandated release of a declaration by his Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union. This was an effort to “break the last resistance of Catholics in certain candidate countries like Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Malta” (ibid.).
In a tone that revived images of the eastern and western legs of the old Roman Empire, the text of the declaration went on: “The bishops see these accessions as the realization of ‘a hope particularly cherished by the church’ in terms of the reconciliation between East and West …” (ibid.).
The last time East and West were politically united in Europe was under the fascist-Nazi yoke!
Watch for tremendous pressure to be mounted by the Catholic Church to counter any effort for democracy to allow a fair and just vote in these referendums. As was the case in Catholic Ireland, the only acceptable vote to the church will be yes to EU accession!
At the same time as the priests go on the attack, the pope has his own Vatican-influenced contact in Brussels working to ensure that the text of the developing European Constitution ultimately recognizes Roman Catholicism as the state religion of the new Euro-empire. Who is that man? That old cohort of ex-chancellor Kohl of Germany—Valery Giscard d’Estaing.
“Giscard recently had a long audience with the pope and has floated the idea of inserting a statement of Christian values into the European Constitution, which he has much power to influence as chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe” (New Statesman, Nov. 25, 2002).
Those “Christian values” go to the very roots of this European federation. They are the values espoused by that old “Holy” Roman Empire of Charlemagne.
In discussions with a journalist of the Times newspaper, a priest in Bohemia emphasized this condition of Catholic support shoring up the efforts of the Brussels bureaucrats in extending membership to Eastern European and Mediterranean countries. “‘We need a Christian Europe, not just an economic union, but one with roots,’ Father Lobkovicz told us in western Bohemia. ‘If you stick to your roots, you cannot lose your identity. Every building has to have a foundation’” (Aug. 19, 2002). These “roots” are the same Catholic roots that Pope John Paul ii referred to when he cried out to Europe from the great cathedral in Galicia, Spain, on a visit to that country in 1994, “Europe! Return to your roots!”
History, Prophecy, Current Reality
The history of the Holy Roman Empire is documented in much detail. The prophecies of the old iron empire, destined to prevail through six resurrections on into its most powerful, yet briefest of all, seventh resurrection of this great combine of church and state, are detailed from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, through the major and minor prophets, to the book of Revelation in your Bible.
The current reality of the final resurrection of that old empire is on the world scene, today, for all to see who will see! It was there from the inception of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952. It was there from the time of the old Treaty of Rome in 1957. Then came the European Common Market, followed by the European Economic Community, the decade of treaties of the 1990s and into the 21st century—the Maastricht Treaty, Treaty of Amsterdam, Treaty of Nice, and now we await the European Constitution. The iron empire steadily rises.
And all the way through its formation, from the earliest writings of Herbert Armstrong, to the message which you read in this magazine today, a warning has been going out to this world—warning that unless the English-speaking peoples return to their God, who delivered them in two great world wars, a final great conflict will afflict them, once again, from the east, as an instrument of punishment for their national sins (Hos. 13:15). For the continuance of that warning, even as we see this mixture of iron and clay which is the European Union (Dan. 2:40-41) rising before our eyes, we owe so much to that man, Herbert Armstrong, who spent most of a lifetime’s effort to bring it to the largest audience possible.
Notwithstanding the powerful evidence of the veracity of Mr. Armstrong’s grasp of the vision of end-time prophecy, some will still cynically point to various details of his prophetic analyses where the real events of the day did not match his predictions. But this is simply akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The original apostles even thought Jesus Christ would return in their day! They were, as it happened, almost 2,000 years out in their estimation! The Apostle Paul admitted that the overview of prophecy God has revealed in His Word leaves out the details. He put it this way: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (i Cor. 13:12).
The point is, Bible prophecy gives us the framework of reference and even many of the details of forthcoming events, but not all! That is one of the reasons why Jesus Christ commanded us to watch (Matt. 24:42).
By remaining attuned to world events and continually relating them to prophecy, we fill in the details progressively. By praying for understanding, we allow God to use the unique power of His Holy Spirit to reveal more and more of that detail to us (John 16:13). That’s why this magazine is able to often be ahead of world events in our study, our overview and even our detailed analysis of those events.
So stay tuned. At present it may be said that, in Europe, most roads lead to Brussels. But keep watching, for the more sure word of prophecy reveals that the time is yet coming when the wayfarer in Europe may once again declare, “All roads lead to Rome!”
But, this Holy Roman Empire will be a brittle mix of iron and clay. “And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken” (Dan. 2:42). Its brief reign will be but a sign that a few years hence, finally all roads shall lead to Jerusalem! “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (v. 44).