The Book of Revelation seems to predict the advent of a malevolent world government in the end times. Is an authoritarian global state imminent, or will it be a long time in development? This article speculates on how it might come into being.
by Brian Knowles
hroughout the history of the Church, the Book of Revelation has been interpreted in four different ways. Depending upon which way one chooses to interpret the book, the expository outcome is different. The four approaches are as follows:
The word preterist is from the Latin praeteritus, which
means “gone by” or “past.” Preterists believe that the events described in the
Book of Revelation have already occurred early in the history of the Church.
(Some in the
This notwithstanding, the preterist view is the most commonly held view today.
Those who take the historical view see the book as portraying the whole panorama of history from the days of John until the end of time. Major proponents of this system do not agree among themselves. This is because of the subjectivity of this approach.
In their Introduction to the New Testament, Carson, Moo and Morris write of this approach: “Several movements in the Middle Ages grew up in the conviction that the millennium was about to dawn. To buttress their beliefs, they found in the Revelation a sketch of history from the time of Christ to their own day. This approach (the kirchengeshichtlich) was popular with the Reformers also, enabling them to identify the beast in the Revelation with the papacy” (Introduction, p. 482).
Idealists believe that Revelation pictures the great drama that is constantly unfolding here below, without reference to actual events. An advocate of this viewpoint was the late William Milligan whom in his commentary on Revelation wrote that the book teaches us “…the action of great principles and not special incidents” (Milligan, p. 153).
Idealists see the book as timeless and symbolic. They often take an allegorical approach to interpreting Revelation. This approach was popular during the medieval period and it is still in style among those who seek to minimize the historical character of the coming consummation (see Mounce, p. 43).
As Mounce writes, “Its [the idealist] weakness lies in the fact that it denies to the book any specific historical fulfillment. From the idealist’s point of view the symbols portray an ever present conflict: there exists no necessary consummation of the historical process” (Mounce, p. 43). This approach is not only contrary to the plain wording of Revelation itself, but it also runs contrary to other passages of Scripture which portray a definite end to the present age.
Futurists view most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled. Only the first three chapters may be said to be historical. Conservatives and Evangelicals, along with many of the Christian cults of personality, take a futurist view. For the purposes of this article, we share that viewpoint.
At the same time, it must be said that each of the four approaches has at least some merit, and each does contribute to the understanding of Revelation. For instance, as Mounce writes, “It is vitally important to see with the preterist that the book must be interpreted in light of the immediate historical crisis in which the first-century church found itself” (Mounce p. 43).
The book is
full of symbolic and veiled references that must be viewed in the context of the
historical background against which John wrote. These references must have had
meaning to the original recipients – the seven churches on the
Having said all this, we must realize that the main thrust of the book is the future climax of history in which Satan and his demonic armies will be vanquished and God and his righteous ones will be forever vindicated. The book is full of predictions that, if taken literally, have not yet been fulfilled. It is on this presumption that we proceed in this article.
For our purposes, we will bring the focus down on Revelation 13 and the as yet unfulfilled prediction of a coming world government.
The apostle John, in vision, saw the following:
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
“And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.
“And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed; and all the world wondered after the beast.
“And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?
“And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
“And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.
“And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
“If any man have an ear, let him hear” (Revelation 13:1-9 KJV, emphasis mine).
The empowering entity in this prophetic scenario is the “dragon.” Who is this dragon? He has already been identified for us in chapter 12 as “the devil,” “that ancient serpent” and “Satan” (Revelation 12:9). We also know from 12:9 that Satan is the leader of hosts of fallen angels known biblically as “demons.” These are the spiritual legions or armies that do the work of ha Satan – the Adversary – in the world. They are organized into ranks, territories and responsibilities (Ephesians ). Like Satan himself, they seduce, accuse and destroy. These fallen angels have exercised their free moral agency by choosing to rebel against God and side with the arch-rebel, Satan. Ultimately, they, and he, are doomed, but that’s another story.
Satan can and does use human beings who have, for whatever reasons, chosen to rebel against God. Two such individuals appear as “beasts” in this vision. One is clearly a military/political leader who will ultimately emerge as a world dictator. The other will preside over a world religion, and over the global economy. The former will dominate the latter, but both will be empowered by Satan.
Sooner or later, these two malevolent individuals will emerge on the world scene. They will arise atop an ultimately authoritarian global political system. Militarily, the political leader will be humanly invincible (verse 4b).
This man appears to be the final Anti-Christ. He will blaspheme the God of the Bible and even lash out against Heaven itself – all under the influence of the devil that possesses him (Revelation 16:13). He will be the sworn enemy of God and all of God’s people, whether they are Jews or Christians (verses 6 & 7). He will persecute both with relentless cruelty. The people of God who are not divinely protected (Luke ) will be severely tested during this period. Many will sacrifice their lives in martyrdom.
Those who do not worship the God of Israel will worship the devil and his representative, the first “beast” (verse 8). The second “beast” – the great religious/economic leader, will facilitate this blasphemous idolatry (verse 12).
The three and one-half years during which these two demonized monsters wield power will be a time of great miracles and spiritual deceptions (Revelation 13: 9,13). Millions will be deceived into believing that God is at work in these lying wonders. Some will even believe that the powerful world leader is the Messiah. Jesus appears to have been speaking of the same time period when he said,
“…Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away” (Luke 21:8-9, NIV).
Jesus then spoke of a time of frequent international warfare. This could be a reference to the clash of cultures that will prefigure the painful formation of the coming world state. Some nations will apparently resist giving up their sovereignty to the emerging global system. It may be that they will be forcefully subdued.
In the wake
of these wars there will be famines and disease epidemics (Luke ). Millions of hapless refugees will
wander the earth seeking food, water and shelter. The horror pictures that now
emerge out of the sub-Sahara region of
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Luke -26).
It is interesting that the Jewish Rabbis also taught that “…there will be ‘the travail of the Messiah,’ i.e. his coming will be attended by pangs of suffering in the same manner that a child is born at the cost of much pain to its mother. On the principle that the night is darkest before the dawn, they taught that the world would show signs of utter demoralization before his arrival and the conditions of life prove well-nigh unbearable” (Everyman’s Talmud, by A. Cohen, p. 349).
During the period preceding the arrival of Messiah, the rabbis predicted drought, famine and deaths among the righteous (ibid. pp.349-350). They also spoke of “voices from heaven” during this period, which they believed would last for seven years. Writes Cohen, “The time of his [Messiah’s] advent will be particularly marked by political unrest, culminating in bitter warfare” (Cohen, p.350). Cohen then quotes the Talmud, “If you see the kingdoms contending with each other, look for the foot of the Messiah” (Gen. xiv).
The three and one-half year period during which the Satanically empowered tyrants rule the earth will be a period of unprecedented upheaval and human suffering. It will also be a period of supernatural signs and wonders. It will be a short but deadly Dark Age before the dawning of the glorious Messianic Age.
We do not know exactly how the final global political/military system will emerge, or precisely what shape it will ultimately take. We do know that it will come, and that it will be an iron-fisted tyranny. That could mean either a Communist type of government, or a Nazi form – or a hybrid of both. In either case, it will be in some sense socialist. The World Government, with the two “beasts” at its head, and Satan behind it, will function collectively as God to the people who accept that system. All who fail to submit will become the “offscouring of the earth” (to borrow a phrase from the apostle Paul). They will be persecuted, driven from pillar to post, imprisoned, tortured and killed. Yet in so doing, they will gain their eternal life.
At the moment, the most powerful promoter of world government is the United Nations and its affiliates. Other agencies, and their members, also seek to facilitate the emergence of a global government run by an elite and utilizing socialistic Big Brother techniques to control the population. Global government is actively promoted by a growing number of non-government organizations (NGO’s) including the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International World Court, the World Federalist Association (WFA) and the State of the World Forum, to list only a few. The last listed organization is an invention of former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. It promotes the notion that world peace is only possible if a “Federal Republic of Earth” replaces autonomous states. It promotes “planetary patriotism.”
World government advocates seek to “deconstruct” the Western Christian worldview whenever, and wherever, possible. They seek to transfer the “best of the wisdom traditions” into an amalgamation of religions, ideas and beliefs that would in essence become a world religion. In this view, Biblical Christianity and Orthodox Judaism would not welcome, except perhaps in a much watered down, merely nominal, form. The focus of these groups is often on promoting “planetary citizenship,” their version of human rights, and “environmental justice.” Ted Turner, who recently gave the United Nations a billion dollars, is one of the leading lights(?) in this drive to create a non-Biblical world religion. In his public utterances he has been vociferously anti-Christian and pro-pagan.
The reality of post Cold War geopolitics is that the world
is being configured along cultural lines. As Samuel P. Huntington writes,
“…culture and cultural identities, which at the broadest level are civilization
identities, are shaping the patterns of cohesion, disintegration, and conflict
in the post-Cold War world” (The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of
World Order, by Samuel P. Huntington, p. 20).
When we think of the world in this way, we can see that it is divided among nine major civilizations:
1. Western (Judaeo-Christian)
2. Latin American (Catholic)
5. Sinic (Chinese Communist)
It is important to note that these
civilizations are mainly religiously or ideologically based. Consequently, the
clash of civilizations is often the clash of religions. It is at the places
where these competing civilizations meet that conflict often arises. As
Each civilization tends to have a lead nation that others in the region seek to either “bandwagon” or “balance.” Those that bandwagon accept the dominance of the lead nation and allow it to call the shots. They are generally supportive and inclined to appeasement. Those that seek to balance usually represent competing nations that seek to remain independent of the culture’s lead nation. They seek to form alliances that will offset the power of the dominant nation. It is this attempt to balance power that creates many of the tensions in the modern world.
As powerful cultures seek to impose their will upon other cultures that they regard as inferior, civilizational wars will burst forth. It is interesting, for example, that Islamic civilization traditionally divides the world into only two parts: Dar al-Islam (the abode of peace) and Dar al-Harb (the abode of war). The abode of peace is the Islamic world. The abode of war represents all others. All non-Moslems are seen as “infidels” and are therefore subject to eventual conquest.
Communists believe that the world would be a better place if all were brought under the godless tenets of Marxism.
As cultural power blocs emerge, and nations chose sides, the battles of the 21st century are shaping up. Each vies for dominance. All cannot win. As was the last, this century promises to be another century of blood. The United Nations seeks to bring all of its member nations under one roof. It seeks to create a world federation of nations led by a central government.
The recently created
At a more subtle level, we are
seeing even the most democratic states move incrementally to more socialistic
approaches to government. Creeping socialism is a global megatrend. Of
Over the years since the Roosevelt
More and more of the democratic nations are implementing the leftist idea of gun control leading to eventual gun confiscation. It is of course much easier for authoritarian governments to control unarmed populations.
The whole world is drifting either to the authoritarian left, or to the authoritarian right, as in third world and Islamic dictatorships. The global Superstate that eventually emerges will undoubtedly be strongly authoritarian in nature.
But the global state will not emerge peacefully. It will be birthed in conflict. Many civilizations will seek to retain civilizational sovereignty and identity. Jesus predicted that those of us who live in the end time generation would see “wars and rumors of wars…but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6).
In the wake of war, famines and disease epidemics will ravage the human population (Matthew 24:7). These will represent only the beginning of a sorrowful time in the human chronicle (verse 8). At some point, a world government will emerge and continue for a period of 3 ½ years. It will be a horrendous time in human history.
In the Biblical worldview, God is engaged in an invisible war with Satan and his forces. Behind many of the governments of the world are demonic, or angelic, forces. The world is divided into territories over which spirits preside. (The book God at War by Boyd is helpful in explaining this Biblical worldview.)
At stake is the redemption of mankind. Satan seeks to thwart God’s purposes through whatever human instruments he can use. The more corrupted a human leader is, the more pliable an instrument he or she is in Satanic hands. Monsters like Hitler, Mao, Stalin and Saddam are examples of the kind of people who can be, and have been, used. Behind the obvious human political scene is a spirit world that operates as a shadow government. Ha Satan – the Adversary – is depicted in the Bible as the archon or ruler of this world (John ). The mind of the tyrant is the mind of Satan.
In today’s post-Enlightenment world, it is difficult to comprehend a universe full of competing, even murderous, spiritual forces. According to the tenets of scientific materialism, there is no reason to believe that which cannot be detected by the tools of science should even exist. The realm of spirit is outside of the grasp of science. It is revealed in the Bible and in human experience. If we as Christians don’t accept the Biblical worldview, then we do not accept the view of our leader Jesus Christ, or those of the apostles Peter, John and Paul. If the Bible is not generally true, then we have no basis for our Christian faith.
The Bible is true. It reveals to us a world of spirit that is more real than our own material world. It preceded the material world, and it will continue long after it has gone. In the meantime, dark spiritual forces are at work to undermine the plan of God. They will work through whichever human instruments prove most pliable. They seek to gather all of mankind together to oppose the coming of Messiah.
The leaders of the world government, under the influence of Satan, will “…make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them; for he is lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
“And he said unto me, the waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (Revelation -15).
It is futile to oppose the King of kings. The outcome of the final battle has been predetermined. Satan and his forces lose, Jesus Christ and his win, but the road to victory will be paved with the bodies of God’s martyrs. Between now and then, Satan will marshal his forces for one last effort to defeat Christ and those of us who are faithful to God. The Lord warns though the visions given to John, “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:12).
The wrath of Satan is nothing compared to the wrath of God. Jesus will come to judge the world, and to mete out its just punishment. He will fulfill the second part of the Messianic prophecy he avoided quoting, and didn’t fulfill, the first time around. This will be Jesus “baptism with fire” spoke of by John the Baptist. The fires of judgment will finally cleanse the earth of the effects of millennia of sin and evil.
It is time for Christians everywhere to decide whether or not they believe the Bible, Jesus Christ and the original apostles. It is time to determine for oneself whether or not the Biblical worldview represents an accurate depiction of reality. If it does, and if the futurist approach to the Book of Revelation is the correct one to take, a world government is even now in formation. That government will be the final instrument in the hands of the devil to attack God’s people everywhere on Planet Earth. The idealistic leftist utopians who are actively aiding and abetting the creation of such a global state have no idea what they are unleashing on the world, or who is behind it. They would view an article like this one as the rantings of a “religious fanatic.”
For true followers of Jesus the Messiah, it is time to take his words seriously: “…fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna]” (Matthew ).
Each believer must come to the place where he or she can say with the writer of Hebrews who admonished us: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’
“So that we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6 NKJV).
have confidence that our Lord himself will see us through the difficult times
ahead. The apostle Paul in a prophecy described the conditions of the end time
in his second letter to Timothy (II Timothy 3:1-5). In this prophecy, Paul
discussed those who would have a “form of godliness” but who would “deny its
power” (verse 5). It is one thing to be religious, it is quite another to be
spiritual. A spiritual person walks in the leading and power of the Spirit of
God (Acts 1:8) for, “The
Each believer, especially in these times, owes it to himself or herself to seek the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit of the living God in daily life. In a world of heightened demonic activity, Jesus’ followers need to provide the antidote – and that is the power of God.
Among other things, Satan is “the accuser of the brethren.” He first tempts or seduces us into sin, then he accuses us, curses us, and rubs our noses in our guilt, and finally, if God allows, he destroys us. John describes in the past tense those who will successfully nullify Satan’s efforts to destroy them: “…they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation ).
It is the blood of Christ that eradicates our guilt. When Jesus hung on that bloody instrument of torture and death called the cross, he bore our guilt and cancelled out the “note of debt” that required of us our very lives (Colossians ). In doing so, he “…spoiled [disarmed] principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them” (Colossians ). Jesus, on the cross, cancelled out the malevolent work of Satan and his demonic hordes. For those of us who appropriate the sacrifice of Christ, the curse of Torah – its death penalty – becomes null and void.
It is through the shed blood of Christ that we as believers defeat ha Satan – the Adversary. Now, as Paul wrote, …whether we live or whether we die, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).
what Paul said about his day, it is clear to those who have the Spirit of God
that the spirit of anti-Christ is active in the world today. Whether the
attacks come from communist regimes, fanatical fundamentalist Islam, or the
political Left, genuine Biblical faith and authentic Judaism are again under
siege. The hallowed halls of Academia resound with vicious and relentless
attacks on the Bible itself and on “the religious Right.” Moral relativism and
civil legalism have replaced the Bible as the source of moral authority in
Western culture. The
terrorist sponsoring nation like
Just as the United Kingdom is facing the dilemma of being absorbed into a smothering European Union and forsaking its long-standing relationship with the United States, so the US is incrementally giving up pieces of its sovereignty to the UN. The trend is not healthy. We could be seeing the beginnings of the formation of a global state. Cultural, economic and political power blocs are being formed all over the world. Eventually, they may coalesce into one massive, monolithic world State. Before entrainment, there will be much shunting, banging, conflict and warfare. Today’s utopian idealists may find that the power that drives them is something less than benevolent.