The New World Order
Two thousand years ago the Mediterranean world belonged to the Roman Empire. This empire stretched from Britain in the northwest to what is now Morocco in the southwest, and it proceeded east across North Africa and southern Europe to include Egypt, Palestine (modern Israel), and Syria. This vast empire was many centuries in the making, and its genius was a combination of political, military, and economic forces that effectively melded diverse peoples, cultures, and religions into a unified whole. The result was the Pax Romana, an unparalleled time of peace and prosperity that affected an enormous number of people and cultures. There has never been anything like it in human history. The famous historian, Edward Gibbon, wrote:
If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus [96–180 A. D.] (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, John W. Lovell Co., New York, Vol. 1, p. 95).
From this second-century apex, the empire slowly collapsed and disintegrated, and Western Europe fell into the Dark Ages. But the ideals of the Roman Empire always lay dormant and were rediscovered during the Renaissance, between 1350 and 1650. Western European nations mastered the seas, colonized much of the known world, and established the New World. In so doing, they also imposed Western culture; by the end of the 20th century, they have come to dominate the world.
As we inaugurate the year 2000 and a new millennium, the world appears closer now to Gibbon’s dream of a happy civilization than at any time in the past 2,000 years. The same genius of the Roman Empire, the combination of political, military, and economic factors, now seem embodied by the West, which is poised to envelop all of human civilization and establish a new age of peace and prosperity.
The New World Order
The Romans’ most enduring contribution to the world was their civil law, which instituted the Greek idea of individual rights and freedoms throughout the empire. One of the better emperors, the philosopher Marcus Aurelius, in his book Meditations, wrote what he was taught:
…to conceive the idea of a commonwealth based on equality and freedom of speech, and of a monarchy cherishing above all the liberty of the subject (Everyman’s Library, E.P. Dutton & Co., New York, Vol. 9, pp. 2–3).
Of course, many emperors were tyrants, and these ideals often applied only to Roman citizens. But the goal of a unified world formed the basis for the empire. The world’s present desire for a New World Order originates from this same dream.
In 1989, with the end of the Cold War, the old Roman ideals of a democratic society based on civil law as embodied by the West appear to have won the day. True, many dictatorships still exist. But because of the political influence of the West around the world, even these oppressed countries desire political change from a dictatorial to a free society.
The premise of this Western approach is that a democratic people can maintain its own culture, including freedom of religion. The ancient Romans, who were pagans, allowed their citizens to worship anything they pleased, as long as their religion did not threaten the state (as they initially thought Christianity did). The fact that countries have differing cultures and religions is not an obstacle to unification. All can join in. Today democratic societies can be any religion. Therefore, nations can maintain their cultural identities and religions and still be part of this worldwide, democratic system.
As exhibited in the Gulf War and the recent NATO actions in Kosovo, the West currently appears to possess the military capability to win any military conflict anywhere in the world. Just as the ancient Romans achieved domination through victories over Carthage and the remnants of the Hellenistic Empire, so the Allies (essentially the U.S., Britain, and France) have won every major war in this century to achieve their present status. The repercussions of this military position have yet to be realized. In ancient Rome, the Roman military essentially secured the empire from invasion and revolt; there would have been no Pax Romana without a strong Roman military. Thus in the next century, there will be no peaceful and prosperous New World Order, unless the West maintains its military dominance to provide worldwide security.
Political unity in a secure environment often produces material affluence. The technological advancements of the last century have dramatically increased the standard of living for the average person in the West. Now the world wants to join in. At the height of ancient Rome’s dominance, its prosperity also increased. The unity and security within the empire fostered trade from one end of the empire to the other. Trade routes and Roman roads linked vast areas together. Today, as information becomes available around the world on the Internet and products can easily be bought, sold, and shipped anywhere in the world, we are on the verge of a truly global economy.
The effects of this new information revolution have only begun to surface. As new generations grow in educational and technological sophistication, developing nations will be able to catch up to the West. Then it may only be a matter of time before a new Pax Romana will blanket not only the West, but the entire world.
The New World Order and Biblical Prophecy
When the prophet Daniel was in exile in Babylon, God revealed to him glimpses of the Roman Empire 500 years before the Roman General Pompey conquered Israel for Rome. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great statue, Rome was represented by the legs and feet of iron and the 10 toes of iron and clay (Dan. 2:33, 40–43). Years later Daniel saw the Roman Empire pictured as a great and terrible beast with iron teeth and 10 horns (Dan. 7:7), and it dominated the whole world (Dan. 7:23). In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, a stone made without hands crushed the toes of the image and caused it to fall down. In Daniel 7, the beast is judged by the Son of man (Dan. 7:13); then the saints possess the kingdom.
It appears that much of this revelation to Daniel has already been fulfilled historically, but much still awaits fulfillment. Historically, Rome defeated the Hellenistic Empire in the first and second centuries B.C., and it dominated the Mediterranean world with its military might for the next 500 years. But what about the 10 toes/horns and the judgment they receive from the Lord? The apostle John, writing more than 150 years after Rome conquered Israel, also received a vision from God concerning this same beast (Rev. 12:3; 13:1). It seems, from Revelation 17:12, that these ten kings all rule concurrently. So we are still awaiting this final form of the Roman Empire to appear on the world stage. Many interpreters of prophecy place these 10 kings in Western Europe, centered around Rome, because of the obvious analogies to the ancient Roman Empire. However, these 10 kings may well represent 10 divisions of the world which become unified under the banner of working together to construct a global civilization that adheres to ancient Roman principles.
This would require a combination of political unity and military might within a global economy. While the world is not there yet, it is clearly heading in this direction. Politically, the West now dominates even the United Nations as former divisions seem to have been overcome. Because of the West’s military might, old enemies appear friendly for the moment (except for outlaw nations, such as Iraq). The key is probably economics; everyone wants the higher standard of living. How does this relate to biblical prophecies of this final form of the Roman Empire? The Roman beast conquers the whole world (political dominance). It crushes all opposition, indicating military might. And, as pictured in the lament of the merchants and sailors for “Babylon” in Revelation 18, it is also a great economic system. These 10 kings could represent the world broken into 10 political/economic blocs.
Will This New World Order Be a New Pax Romana?
Initially, yes. If this global unification is to take place, it will likely occur peacefully, not by force. Most of the world, in fact, will applaud it. But will all diverse cultures and religions really be unified? On the surface, yes, because of economic factors. But the 10 toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image were mixed iron and clay. Daniel himself observed that these substances do not stick together (Dan. 2:43). While these 10 kings will appear united, in reality, the union will not work for long. Whether the reason will be religious, economic, or simply the will to dominate, this final, global world empire will fall apart. It is then that the Antichrist will make his move to reunite the empire under his absolute control. He will portray himself as divine, just as the ancient Roman emperors did in the apostle John’s day. (In Daniel’s vision of the beast, the 10 horns are in place before the “little horn,” the Antichrist, makes his move [Dan. 7:7, 8].) And, as in John’s day, those who will not worship the emperor will be persecuted or killed (Rev. 12–13).
How Are Christians to Face the Future?
If these prophecies unfold as described, how should Christians view this global direction? Do we cash in all our stocks and dig a bunker in the mountains and hide? Do we take the position that worldwide peace and prosperity are bad things? On the contrary, this next century, or however much remains until the Lord returns, will probably hold the greatest opportunity for world evangelization since the first century. Why? Because just as the Pax Romana enabled early Christians to travel and communicate freely across the Mediterranean world, globalization and political freedom will give modern-day Christians the same ability to travel and communicate freely. Even today Christians have begun using technological advances such as the Internet to send the gospel into closed countries. Just as the ancient Romans allowed freedom to practice “legitimate” religions, so the West champions “human rights,” which include freedom of religion. In other words, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, paganism, or any “legitimate” religion will all be practiced side by side, at least for a while, to create a pluralistic, religious society worldwide. This concept of many gods, not just one, is pagan and is pictured by the Great Harlot riding the Beast in Revelation 17. If this interpretation of prophecy is correct, there will be great opportunities for the gospel to truly penetrate the whole world in one generation.
So should we fear the future? No. It is a tremendous time to be a Christian. The opportunities before us as a church are unprecedented. Besides, these events do not speak of the end of the world. They speak of the beginning of the world. For the kingdom cannot come until the “man of sin be revealed” (2 Th. 2:3). Like the apostle John, we say, “Come, Lord Jesus.”