“But [Jesus] answered and said, ‘Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit'” (Matt. 15:13-14).
As soon as Brexit became an issue, I knew that prophecy writers would be fine tuning their charts. For decades we have been told that the European Union or European ‘Common Market’ was necessary for the rise of the antichrist.
Sure enough, Franklin Graham tied Brexit to Bible prophecy:
“The Rev. Franklin Graham said Friday that the ‘historic’ Brexit vote had been foreshadowed in the Bible and urged leaders in both Europe and the United States to look to God for ‘wisdom and discernment’ amid the ensuing upheaval.
‘With the breakdown of immigration laws and economies, millions of Europeans feel that their politicians have failed them,’ Graham said on Facebook.
“We don’t know what the #EUReferendum vote means long-term, but I know that this is at least a temporary setback for the politicians in this country and around the world who want a one-world government and a one-world currency. The Bible speaks that one day this will take place.”
Understand what Graham is saying. While Brexit is a good thing in the short term, don’t get too excited because a future is coming when Europe – a revived Roman Empire – will arise and all prophetic hell will break loose. He’s telling Christians, without actually saying it, that there is really no long-term way to turn things around. Enjoy the moment, but don’t think that any effort on our part will make any difference.
For a very long time, I and other Christian writers have been making the point that a person’s view of the future matters. It has long-term social, moral, and political cultural consequences. There’s been a lot of angst over how the Christian Right has lost its mojo. It never really had it because the prophetic card was always on the table. Consider the late Jerry Falwell (1933–2007) who started the Moral Majority in 1979. On a December 27, 1992 television broadcast, he said that he did “not believe there will be another millennium . . . or another century.” He was wrong, but this didn’t stop him from making further predictions about Armageddon. He wrote the following on July 23, 2006:
“It is apparent, in light of the rebirth of the state of Israel, that the present-day events in the Holy Land may very well serve as a prelude or forerunner to the future Battle of Armageddon and the glorious return of Jesus Christ.”1
Graham and Falwell have taught this very popular view of Bible prophecy for years, and it’s had a profound negative effect on millions of Christians who are waiting for a “rapture” to rescue them from an inevitable prophetic end that’s always going to happen “soon.”
Let me take you back a few decades – nearly nine to be exact – to the year 1927. Oswald J. Smith wrote Is the Antichrist at Hand? – What of Mussolini? Smith believed that the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who had ruled Italy since 1922, was the predicted antichrist. Ample biblical evidence was put forth to establish his claim. In addition, Smith also believed that the Bible’s prediction about a revived ten-nation Roman confederacy in Europe was on the horizon. All the prophetic pieces were in place. Smith was so sure of his views that in subsequent printings of his book, he included the following on the front cover:
“The fact that this book has run swiftly into a number of large editions bears convincing testimony to its intrinsic worth. There are here portrayed startling indications of the approaching end of the present age from the spheres of demonology, politics and religion. No one can read this book without being impressed with the importance of the momentous days in which we are living.”
Following the prophetic script outlined by C. I. Scofield in his note-filled edition of the Bible named after himself, Smith was emphatic that “Ten nations, no more, no less, are to become allied and known as the Roman empire because Rome will be the centre, the capital, and it will be in Rome that the Emperor will reign.”2
The book went through multiple editions and printings. So for 23 years Christians were assured that the end was near. It was – for Mussolini, and Hitler, and Stalin.
Similar predictions have been made by more modern prophecy writers. In his Late Great Planet Earth, Hal Lindsey wrote about a “ten nation [European] confederacy” that would be in place by 1980. For support, he quoted Dr. William Hallstein, the former president of the European Economic Community, who described how a “Common Market could someday expand into a ten-nation economic entity who industrial might would far surpass that of the Soviet Union.” Lindsey remarks, “Imagine that. A ‘ten-nation economic entity.’”3
But something happened to Smith on his road to prophetic certainty. In April 1945, just before the Allied armies reached Milan, Mussolini was caught by Italian Communist partisans as he tried to escape to Switzerland. He and his mistress, Clara Patacci, were hanged. Oops! Now that’s a monkey wrench in a well-oiled prophetic machine. Lindsey was also off the mark. The European Union is much bigger than ten nations and includes nations not originally part of the old Roman Empire and excludes the nations of northern Africa that were. But Smith did what no modern-day prophetic speculator has dared to do. He apologized for his presumption. John Warwick Montgomery adds this bit of historical perspective: “I understand that after the fall of Mussolini, Smith himself tried to buy up all remaining copies of the book to destroy them.”4 This may be one of the reasons why Smith’s book is so hard to find today.
The ten-nation common market idea is beginning to take a back seat to historical and biblical realities. The union is now made up of 28 nations. Part of a revived Roman Empire also includes Israel and northern Africa which prophetic speculators seem to have forgotten. Montgomery’s warning needs to be heeded:
“We are not saying that such efforts at end-time prophecy reach the level of the false prophets condemned in the Old Testament: those who ‘speak a vision out of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord’ (Jer. 23:16). But we are saying that end-time prophecy lacks the necessary factual grounding to make it an effective apologetic to the unbeliever – and that it can be and often is in reality counterproductive, lowering rather than raising the credibility of Christianity in the eyes of the outsider.”5
Does this mean that we as Christians should dismiss world events as outside the searching eye of Scripture? Not at all. There are enough non-prophetic examples in the Bible that can be used to analyze current social, moral, cultural, and political events. Consolidated political power is certainly a biblical issue, both in its efficiency (Ex. 18) and its potential for danger (1 Sam. 8). Christians can offer a reasonable voice without the dogmatism inherent in the ever-changing pronouncements found in prophetic speculation.
Oswald J. Smith, Is the Antichrist at Hand? (Harrisburg, PA: The Christian Alliance Publishing Co., 1927), 18. ↩
Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), 96-97. ↩
John Warwick Montgomery, “Prophecy, Eschatology, and Apologetics,” Looking into the Future: Evangelical Studies in Eschatology, ed. David W. Baker (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic/Baker Book House, 2001), 366. ↩
Montgomery, “Prophecy, Eschatology, and Apologetics,” 366. ↩