Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Darris McNeely] No one is above the law. At least, if you live in a modern democratic nation your safety and security rests on that principle. No one, not even the president, is above the law.
But what if your government was also your church? What if your head of state also spoke for God? And what if they decided you believe the wrong things?
The frieze on the palace of Charlemagne in Aachen, Germany tells just such a story. It shows Christ sitting on an earthly throne. On his left is the Emperor Charlemagne. On his right is the Roman Catholic Pope Leo III. This is a united kingdom of church and state.
In this picture is the story of Europe. In this picture is the idea that Christ rules through a human combination of church and state. In this picture is the story of the millions of the people killed in the name of God. But this picture is more than a story. It’s also a blueprint for the final Biblical conflict that will engulf all the nations of the world before the return of Christ. There are even forces working today to turn this prophecy into a reality. Could it happen in your lifetime?
Join us on Beyond Today as we tell the story of Why Europe Matters: The Lethal Union of Church and State.
On Christmas day in the year 800, the Frankish king Charlemagne knelt in prayer before the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Pope Leo III produced a crown and placed it on the head of the king. The crowd of people in the cathedral shouted, “Hail to Charles the Augustus, crowned by God the great and peace bringing Emperor of the Romans!”
He was anointed with oil. Pope Leo saluted him as Emperor. Charlemagne became Western Europe’s “Christian Caesar.” He was proclaimed the King of Europe, cementing an alliance with the papacy and the empire. We can now see that this coronation is the central event of the Middle Ages.
Everyone who witnessed this scene that day understood that the pope and the king were now joint rulers on earth. The pope spoke for God. Charlemagne received his crown from the Pope’s hand, to symbolize God’s choice to rule all peoples. And thus was born the Holy Roman Empire, as we’ve come to call it today.
This alliance between church and state determined the fate of the events on the European continent for the next one thousand years. Charlemagne and the Pope saw this as a revival of the old Roman power. The birth of this new realm was a noble idea, a dream of security and peace, order and civilization planted in a barbaric and violent period known as the dark ages.
It was here in Aachen, not in Rome, that Charlemagne built his palace and chapel. The chapel was completed in the year 805 and is still today a place religious pilgrims come to acknowledge the meaning established and built into every stone in the building.
The original part of the Aachen Cathedral is three tiers and is in the shape of an octagon. It is built on the foundation of an ancient Celtic temple. The proportions of this church follow the numbers from the book of Revelation. Inside the dome of this cathedral you see a mosaic that represents the Adoration of the Lamb. Here on the pulpit are fragments of Roman pottery, glass and an eagle figurine. The design and elements here were meant to send a message.
Charlemagne intended his chapel to symbolize the union of his reign as emperor with the spiritual authority of the church.
This is the solid gold casket that contains the body of Charlemagne. It’s surrounded by relics, the supposed loincloth of Christ, a piece of clothing from Mary, and even a splinter of Charlemagne’s skull. All these relics are worshipped by the faithful.
Even the huge iron chandelier suspended above called the Crown of Lights symbolizes the walls of the New Jerusalem described in the book of Revelation. The inscription on it reads “Jerusalem, celestial Zion” and is dedicated to the “Holy Virgin Star of the Sea.”
Here is Charlemagne’s imperial throne. On this simple marble throne more than 30 coronations of kings occurred over a 700-year span.
This imperial cathedral here in Aachen is a living history lesson. Everything about this building speaks to power. This was a significant step, what took place here in Aachen, in the story of Europe and religion and the church. For the first time we have a German king, a palace and a capital city in northern Europe. It was also a major step in Bible prophecy.
Here was a transfer of political power from the Mediterranean world of ancient Rome to northern Europe. This place, this cathedral in Aachen, tells the story of a king, Charlemagne, from northern Europe crowned by the Bishop of Rome as Imperator Romanum. And all this was declared to be the revived Roman Empire, The Holy Roman Empire.
Now why does this matter? Is it just an interesting history lesson? It matters because the Bible tells us history and the Bible tells us prophecy. It tells us that in our time we will see a superpower state rise on the world scene. It too will be a combination of political and religious power. It’ll be greater than anything dreamt of by Charlemagne or Pope Leo III.
We find this coming power prophesied in the biblical book of Daniel in a passage that also predicts Charlemagne’s own empire. The story begins in ancient Babylon. The second chapter of Daniel records that the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a gigantic image of a man, with parts of the image made up of different metals. Gold, silver, bronze, iron, and mixed with clay.
Daniel then went on to explain that a series of empires would arise to dominate the land we know as the Middle East and beyond.
The image’s head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire. “You [it says] are this head of gold” (Daniel 2:38). Daniel then told the king of the rise of “another kingdom inferior to yours,” followed by a “third kingdom of bronze,” and finally a fourth kingdom “as strong as iron,” which would “break in pieces and crush all the others” (Daniel 2:39-40). From the dream we see the four kingdoms are part of the same system and directed from the same source. Babylon. From history we know that these next three kingdoms after Babylon were the Persian Empire, the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire. One theme connected these empires. It was the drive to build a culture challenging the will of God. Rome, the greatest of these empires, broke its enemies into pieces and crushed all its competitors. Rome built an empire that stretched as far north as the British Isles and modern Germany.
Consider something interesting about the image. The feet and toes were composed “partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron,” meaning the kingdom shall be divided. Partly strong and partly fragile. This means it would be made up of people who “will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay” (Daniel 2:41-43).
The toes of this image give us a picture relevant to today’s political scene right here in Europe now. These ten toes are the same as the ten horns of another image found in Revelation 17. There are ten kings who hold power for a short time with one another and then they give it to another called “the beast.”
The timeline represented by this image begins with the head in Nebuchadnezzar’s day and it continues that timeline from the head to the toes, the image represented after Babylon, the Persian, Greek and the Roman Empires that would follow, each on its own era.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represented world empires that would reign through the end of the age. His dream takes us into our world today and to understand its meaning is to understand today’s world events. In Revelation 13, he said I saw on the sand of the sea a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns. And on his horns ten crowns and on his heads the name of blasphemy.
What John was seeing was the Roman Empire. The fearsome power and world-shaping impact this empire possesses. There has never been a world power like that of ancient Rome. What happened in Rome, the power of the state in one man and the role of religion continues to shape world events and, ultimately, Bible prophecy.
This beast, representing a modern geopolitical superpower, has characteristics of a leopard, bear and lion (Revelation 13:2) showing continuity with the ancient empires of Babylon, Persia and Greece.
As Rome had swallowed up these earlier empires, so does this final great empire of John’s vision. All that Daniel saw is now brought into clearer focus. A “beast” is a fitting symbol for these empires. Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome and countless other kingdoms, empires and governments have wielded their power to attack, oppress and enslave others so they could preserve their control. “The dragon”—Satan the devil—is the unseen supernatural influence at work behind the scenes in this final world superpower. People will say: “Who’s like the beast? Who’s able to make war with him?” This power will appear invincible and unstoppable. It will “make war against the saints,” killing and persecuting the faithful servants of God. So great will be the dominance of this beast that it will have “authority over every tribe, people, language and nation” and “all inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast” (Revelation 13:7-8).
The power of Satan the Devil will be behind this beastly world power. The world will unknowingly be worshipping the Devil.
Centuries of history bear record of man’s unjust rule without the guidance of God. Like its ancient predecessor, this end-time system will set itself against God, ruthlessly suppressing His truth and attacking those who faithfully serve Him. The Bible reveals a lethal combination of church and state in the years ahead of us.
I take you back to the scene there on Charlemagne’s palace here in Aachen. Christ seated on a throne, Charlemagne kneeling at his feet on the left and Pope Leo III kneeling on His right. Here, chiseled into stone is the story we just read in Revelation. Revelation describes a combination of religious and political power. It’s a coming super power that will transform the world at a moment of great crisis. The Bible describes a coming time of world upheaval. It will need a power to stabilize the nations at a time when it appears the world order could be coming apart.
Daniel’s prophecy shows us an outline of world history from the ancient time into our world today. What began in Babylon with a political, spiritual and cultural system has passed through the centuries into the modern political state that forms modern Europe. Here in Aachen, a Frankish chieftain named Charlemagne administered a kingdom that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the tip of Italy. From the shores of the Atlantic to the Oder River in the east. And by force of will and administration he ruled as a crowned emperor with the name Augustus, the first and greatest Roman emperor.
Charlemagne’s kingdom, recognized by the Pope in Rome moved the political authority of the ancient Roman Empire from the Mediterranean world to northern Europe. When the Pope crowned him Imperator the foundation of what would later be called the Holy Roman Empire was laid. Charlemagne created the idea of Europe for the modern world. Charlemagne, he became the father of Europe, the first European. In Charlemagne was a lethal combination of power. He became more than a head of state. He also became the protector of the church, spreading his version of Christianity among the barbarian tribes. At the point of the sword he converted whole groups of people to Christianity. Charlemagne’s form of religion was common for the age. Convert and submit or die. There often was no choice. On one bloodthirsty march to subdue Germanic tribes known as the Saxons – he beheaded 4,500 prisoners and then marched hundreds of miles to observe the Feast of the Nativity.
Let’s go back to the image of Christ seated on a throne. The Pope and the Emperor kneeling before Him as He holds an orb of the world with a Christian cross on top. This scene portrays a belief that Christ rules on the earth through His church now.
This idea that Christ rules on earth through the church, is not taught in the Bible but it became the dominant idea through a church father named Augustine in the fifth century A.D. Augustine was the greatest of the early theologians. His book, The City of God , explained a transfer of power from heaven to earth through the church. This explained the collapse of Rome. Augustine’s book, The City of God , was a favorite of Charlemagne. Because that church had already abandoned the teaching of Christ and the apostles, the faith once delivered, it was only a small step to the idea that the church was Christ’s kingdom on earth.
With this new belief that Christ rules through the church and now the state, it gave Charlemagne total power. The Bible says the second beast of Revelation 13 “was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Revelation 13:5).
Here, with Charlemagne now emperor, the church had taken the image of the roman government, survived and then 300 years later gives life to the state empire of Charlemagne through the coronation. In turn, Charlemagne’s empire gave new life to the Roman system. Historian Will Durant says it perfectly, “Rome died in giving birth to the church; the Church matured by inheriting and accepting the responsibilities of Rome.” This is how the “image of the beast” described in Revelation, passed into the church at Rome and endured.
Christianity advanced but often by forced conversion. Here was a combination of church and state, long a lethal weapon. Here was the exact opposite of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and the example of His apostles and disciples who took the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God to the world of their day.
So why do you need to understand this history? Because we will see this joining of a church and a political system again.
Europe’s roots are Christian. They always have been. We saw it in Aachen with the preserved majesty of Charlemagne’s Cathedral. We see it told all over Europe and here in Brussels, the great cathedrals and art that speaks to religious and Christian themes. Go to any museum in Europe and you will see religious art and religious artifacts.
Europe’s roots are Christian and its history testifies to the fact that religion, and specifically the Christian religion, is what bound together the diverse tribes, nations, ethnicities and languages that were here and are still here.
Religion brought it together, oftentimes at the point of a sword. The people here bloodied themselves through religious wars and in the name of religion European civilization sought to make other parts of the world into its image, again through conquest and war. In the future it will also be religion that will be the glue that binds this fragile region into a final superpower like the one described in Bible prophecy.
Today the European Union is a fragile grouping of nations seeking stability. It has its challenges. Member states with bad economies and finances and a growing Muslim population that in a few years will outnumber native Europeans. And then there’s pressure from Russia to the east that sees a strong Europe as a constant threat. No doubt, Europe is going through massive changes. It will not disappear however. It will play a significant role in the future.
At work in today’s world are larger powers than you and I can see with the eye. Great spiritual powers are at work to both advance the kingdom of the God of creation and the kingdom of Satan the Devil. In Aachen, where Charlemagne built his palace and his church lies the key to understanding the connection between what God shows us in Revelation and the looming headlines of today’s world. The earthly powers of Europe, Russia, the United States and even the Middle East all vie for control, order and stability. Tensions mount and wars break out among nations over religion and ethnicity.
What we see with our eyes today will change overnight. Religion in Europe will yet play a key role in creating a final world superpower.
Europe did not originate because of a grouping of different nations. As we have seen, Europe was originally a Church and an empire that came together at the time of Charlemagne. It is said that, “Europe is the faith–the faith is Europe.” That was the unifying idea of Christianity that made it possible for the Holy Roman Empire and the modern states of Europe to come to existence. Europe’s common faith and the institutions that supported it created a common culture. A multitude of nations and languages came under a common faith for centuries before the modern states of Germany and France and all the others arose.
Religion then caused wars through the ages and war has been a constant feature of this continent. The 70-plus years of peace since the end of World War II are not normal. Europe has always been an unstable, churning cauldron of differences and competing interests.
This is the European Parliament in Brussels. It’s the central point for governance of today’s EU. But Europe, through the present European Union, has attempted to create only a secular state without religion. It’s failing. It is coming under attack from many forces and it will eventually have to turn to its roots, to religion, to preserve itself and to become what is described in scripture.
Historically, the only world region that fits the description of the power foretold in Revelation is Europe. No other region in history has provided the narrative for a combination of political, economic and religious power that impacts so much of the world. No other region today can come close to providing the elements of Bible prophecy. None.
Yes, today Europeans are prideful about their post-religious nature. It is true that secularism has a dominating influence on European culture right now. But religion in Europe is not dead—far from it. Everywhere you go in Europe you see signs of the religious past and you even see signs of a religious present.
At some point a global crisis will arise. We see that in the book of Revelation. Perhaps it will begin with a terrorist attack. This attack could lead to a chain reaction of events that sets off war and financial strain. The solution will involve a church and state promise unlike any ever seen. Order and stability will be promised. Many nations will grant sovereignty to this new, larger superpower whereby religion will be the answer to stabilize the world order. Imbued with this spiritual power it will offer what seems as the only viable hope of human survival and prosperity.
Europe is an idea born from the long ages of spiritual, political and economic culture that began on the banks of the Euphrates River in ancient Mesopotamia. It is an historical and cultural concept that we see first outlined in the Book of Daniel. What began in Babylon flowed westward through Persian and Greek influence and settled in Rome. In Rome we find the mixture of religion, a false version of Christianity, and state power that came to be seen as the final and permanent kingdom in world history. This Sacrum Imperium, this holy empire of people and tribes, came to see its mission to steer the course of all future history. It held the idea it would last forever doing the will of God on earth.
It is an idea rooted in the belief that humanity can make a name, a culture, an ideology for itself apart from the revelation of knowledge of and about the Creator God. That idea migrated and grew through Persia, Greece and the Roman period. The seed survived and its branches were planted into northern Europe. Europe today is the churning sea from which a great world power will rise in one final defiant effort to thwart the purpose of God to plant His kingdom on earth.
We have been surveying the Biblical story between Daniel and Revelation of Satan’s kingdom built upon the foundation of Babel and Babylon. And here in Aachen, Germany, we have the symbols of Charlemagne’s empire, his kingdom that tells us the story that we’ve been talking about. Here is the church that Charlemagne built to symbolize his spiritual power. And across this plaza is today’s city hall built on the foundation of Charlemagne’s ancient palace. Together they symbolize the combination, the lethal combination, of church and state that has brought so much misery upon the world and upon millions of people.
The good news, however, is that God’s kingdom is going to be brought to this earth by Jesus Christ and it will not be a kingdom left to other people. The good news is that you can begin to prepare for that kingdom today.
For Beyond Today I’m Darris McNeely.
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