Something was happening as New Year's Eve was approaching. With Christmas just gone, all of a sudden people were being much nicer to each other. There is a far greater sense of neighbourliness in both city and township street residences, along with among village populations. Debts, many outstanding, were at long last settled. Other creditors who knew full well that they would never be repaid, forgave them who owed large sums.
Prisoners were released from their cells and pardoned for their crimes. Even among farmers, their livestock was let out of their pens and allowed to wander freely across fields and meadows. Even strangers who would have merely passed each other while going about their business stopped to greet each other and asked about their health and welfare. But most important of all, any disputes or disagreements were quickly settled.
As evening drew in, everyone became more and more nervous. The hours ticked away. Presently, the churches began to fill up. And in Rome, the Basilica San Pietro was also beginning to fill up. As midnight approached, the huge, cavernous cathedral was crammed full of people. Five minutes to midnight. The Pope stood at the altar, holding up a huge consecrated Host he had taken out of the monstrance which stood in front of him. I would not be at all surprised that this holding up of the Host over the altar was repeated simultaneously in nearly all the churches in the Western world.
|Basilica San Pietro, Rome.|
As midnight struck, the Pope kept the Host held up high. Then the clock stopped ticking. The ensuing silence was broken by screams issuing from several mouths among the huge congregation packing the church building. In addition, two or three people suddenly died of fright whilst lying prostrate in expectation.
As the rest of the congregation waited expectantly, the silence continued. It was after a period of time of several minutes after midnight that a general sense of relief began to settle among the people. The service was able to continue and huge droves of people lined up to receive their Communion. Their biggest fear, their moment of terror, had finally passed. Judgement Day was not to be.
And so much of the events which brought to end December 31st, AD 999 and the ushering in of January 1st, AD 1000. The start of New Year, a new Century, and a new Millennium. This threefold beginning of multiple time periods simultaneously on one stroke of the clock was not to occur again for another one thousand years - that is, during my day.
And so, after nearly two decades into the third Millennium after the birth of Jesus Christ, I sat next to Dr Andrew Milnthorpe at a midweek lunchtime meeting at the Kerith Centre, the local Baptist church in our hometown of Bracknell. A strong friendship exists between us, despite that he is a dedicated Brexiter, while I'm a committed Remainer. And we both know where each of us stands.
It has been a very tumultuous week in Parliament. With MPs casting one vote after another on whether we should leave the EU with or without a deal, and the likelihood of a delay in leaving should the PM's deal be rejected again, much uncertainty is felt in the air over our nation. It was because of this when I turned to my friend to ask why he was so dedicated to leaving the European Union.
His answer was that he longed for the sovereignty of our country, with our own laws including border control. His opinion parallels the Daily Mail journalist Richard Littlejohn who, in his column, wrote that by now, after nearly three years since the referendum, we should be on our way to a glorious future, on the road paved with gold to economic and national glory, but then laments that due to the effect of Remainers in Parliament, we are instead left in political turmoil, even threatening Brexit altogether, despite our economy doing well at the moment.
In referral to the 400-year existence of the former British Empire, which invaded other lands and subjugated their indigenous populations under its rule, I asked my PhD friend whether this all boils down to the UK wanting to be its own boss and saying to the rest of the world, and to Europe in particular, do what I tell you, not what I do. He basically confirmed this, and then mentioned that during the Wars, there were many who gave their lives for our nation. To which I replied:
Those brave soldiers gave their lives to free us from Nazi oppression, and not from integration into the EU.
Perhaps I should have gone on to explain that the whole purpose of the European Union is to keep the threatening rise of the neo-Nazi movement across Europe under restraint. As it was since the 2016 referendum result was announced, there was a spike of anti-immigration and xenophobic violence in our cities. As long as Darwin's evolutionary theories continue to be expounded across the Media, in schools and colleges, the rise of white supremacy is inevitable. And so was the case just a couple of days ago, when the lunatic Brenton Tarrant shot and killed 49 Muslims at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. He himself boasted of being a white supremacist, unwittingly following the philosophy of Charles Darwin and his cousin Sir Francis Dalton as well as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to the letter.
|An English Defence League demo in Newcastle.|
My doctor friend also raised his concern that the EU is linked to the End Days of human history when the coming Antichrist described in Revelation 13 and other portions of Scripture will arise and rule from Europe, whether it will be from Brussels or from Rome. He then named another person in his church who we both knew well, and who apparently believed in the Dispensational worldview of End-Time Prophecy, or Estachology as it's also known by. It was this third person who persuaded Andrew to vote to leave the EU.
During my former years prior to marrying Alex, I was very enthusiastic about this End-Time branch of theology. Yet what I find rather amazing is ever since the Reformation during the 16th Century, the idea of the Pope of Rome as the Antichrist was universally held in all Protestant churches. That was until a 19th Century Plymouth Brethren theologian by the name of John Darby, who first conceived the concept of Dispensationalism, with the idea of the restoration of Israel as a sovereign nation, the Church Raptured or translated into Heaven, the revival of the Roman Empire with the European Union as its forerunner, the rise of the Antichrist, the seven-year Great Tribulation which ends with the Second Advent of Christ to reign in Jerusalem.
Sceptic Reformers believe that John Darby was attempting to free the Pope from bearing the label Antichrist by inventing a future political leader who will reign immediately before the Return of Christ. However, it was Cyrus Scofield who, after taking in Darby's theology on board, produced The Scofield Bible. This was by means which The Dallas Theological Seminary was founded. One of its tutors, the late Dr John R. Rice, was renowned for winning souls to Christ and founded The Sword of the Lord publishing company in Tennessee. Through one of his books, False Doctrines Answered from the Scriptures, which I still have, he became my distant mentor, who laid the foundations to believe in the Dispensationalist worldview.
I have books written by Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, Norman Robertson, and the late Dave Hunt, all supporting Dispensationalist theology, and all agreeing that Israel will be restored into a sovereign nation with Jerusalem itself being "a Cup of Trembling" to its enemies, the Rapture of the Church to Heaven and the Return of Christ after a brief reign of Antichrist. But looking back, I now believe that my sense of little worth as a window cleaner in comparison to that of a computer programmer (of which are many in our church), along with remaining single while others of my age are already grandparents, has resulted, rightly or wrongly, in my belief in Dispensationalism as my emotional and psychological support.
With Hal Lindsey writing The Late Great Planet Earth, which was followed by lesser-known books such as The 1980s Countdown to Armageddon, and The Terminal Generation, alongside Robertson's Understanding End-Time Prophecy, all indicating that the closeness of the coming third Millennium will usher in God's Kingdom at the same time or even earlier. For example, Robertson's insistence that the Russian Premier Mikail Gorbachev will rush his armies into Israel to plunder Jerusalem during the early 1990s, in fulfilment of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, has severely damaged my sense of reliability towards various interpretations of Darby's End-Time popular theology by making the whole study looking thoroughly stupid!
But the idea of the European Union as the forerunner of the Revived Roman Empire from which the Antichrist will rise to reign briefly looks to me to be advocated by fellow-Christians who has voted to leave the EU. My friend Andrew seems to be one of those Christians, but I have spoken to other believers who voted to leave, also upholding the theory. However, it does not mean that I myself believe that the European Union is the forerunner of the coming Revived Roman Empire. It might be true, but equally, it might not at all be true. At present, I have my doubts, but I won't rule out the possibility entirely. Rather, I wish to keep an open mind on this matter.
However, I do believe in the restoration of the sovereignty of Israel (having visited the Holy Land several times already) and that God will deal specifically with the Jews after the Church is first removed. It's the Covenant made by God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It's a covenant of grace, unconditional to any human act. If God's Abrahamic Covenant is already annulled because of Israel's sinfulness, then how can I rely on the Covenant of Grace for salvation, established by the Crucifixion, Burial and Resurrection of the Son of God? In spite of this, there are many things I do not understand about various details of this coming Kingdom. For example, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and the practice of daily sacrifices. Why is that necessary if Jesus Christ has already atoned for all sin, once for all time, by dying on a cross and rising from the grave three days later?
However, I don't have to rely on Darby's theological worldview, nor on Scofield's Bible to draw on any conclusions, but on Holy Scripture itself. And much of the Bible's emphasis is placed on God's Abrahamic Covenant. Jeremiah's prophecies seem to endorse this, particularly when reading chapters 30 and 31, especially Jeremiah 31:35-37. If God's Covenant to Israel is eternal, so is the Covenant of Grace to the Church, the beautiful Bride of Christ, is also eternal. This wonderful truth allows me to believe in the possibility of the Rapture, or Translation of all believers to Heaven before the rise of Antichrist. Many, including me, believe that the Rapture is necessary in order for God to purify Israel before her King arrives to take up his father David's throne in Jerusalem.
|Western Wall, Jerusalem - taken 1994.|
But whether the European Union is the forerunner of the revived Roman Empire, I don't think it's anyone to decide. It stands as a possibility. On the other hand, present-day Europe may have nothing to do with this upcoming empire. If anything, if the UK is successful in leaving the EU, whether it'll be March 29th, the end of June, or in the next two years, this would go against the idea of being the forerunner of the Revived Roman Empire. And as far as I'm aware, Italy is favourable in leaving, as well as Hungary, if I have got that right.
The Rapture - Isaiah 26:19-21, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - if it occurs in our lifetimes, will be a terrifying event to all those left behind. The sudden vanishing of so many people all at once could stir up a belief in an extraterrestrial superpower, against which nobody can defend themselves, snatching people to another planet, so it might be believed, to serve as slaves. This universal feeling of terror could unite Europe into a formidable force with a leader who will insist in the UK rejoining and to intercede with this superpower against the possibility of another bout of snatching away. This could be part of the "strong delusion" sent by God to the disobedient whom Paul wrote about in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.
No matter how near or far from the truth this scenario will be, one thing I do know, and that is, it's all in God's hands. As I sat at Starbucks with one of our Elders, as both of us are Remainers, we agreed on one important issue. And that being in the European Union will make it easier for the Gospel to spread, without the need to navigate difficult borderlines.