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The Christadelphian | March 2013

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Remembering
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning The journey | John S. Roberts
  • The Prophecy of Nahum 03 – “The LORD bringeth again the excellency of Job” | Mark Allfree
  • Understanding Matthew 18 | Trevor A. Pritchard
  • First steps Sunday | Mark Buckler
  • UK Gift Aid | Andrew White
  • For better, for worse … 03 – Abraham & Sarah | Mark Vincent
  • UK Gift Aid | Andrew White
  • Book review The Sons of Korah | Michael Owen
  • Archaeology 03 – Great ruins of the Great Builder | Nathan Kitchen
  • Faith Alive! Timothy | Michael Movassaghi
  • Signs of the times “Out of the Abyss”: the European beast rises | Michael Jenner
  • Israel and their land A modern miracle
  • Readers’ Q&A
  • Epilogue Why? | Rachel Yuile
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

“Out of the abyss”

The European beast rises

In December 2012 the Nobel Peace prize was awarded to the European Union for transforming a “continent of war” into a “continent of peace”. [1] The EU has decided to mark this achievement by running a publicity campaign involving speeches, events and exhibitions across the EU under the title, “Out of the Abyss: How Europeans built peace together”. [link]

This title, we suggest, is a remarkable, clear and direct reference to the Biblical description of Europe just before it will make war with the Lord Jesus Christ (see Revelation 17:14) subsequent to his return:

The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit (abyss), and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” (Revelation 17:8)

Revelation chapter 17 informs us that the last form of Daniel’s fourth beast, the Roman beast – the form that shall “make war with the Lamb” – “shall ascend out of the bottomless pit”. The Greek word for “bottomless pit” is abussos – from which we get the English word ‘abyss’. Hence the Revised Version translates thus: “The beast … is about to come up out of the abyss.”

What is the meaning of this detail, and is it significant that the leaders of Europe have launched a campaign declaring that Europe has indeed risen “out of the abyss”?

Biblical usage of the word ‘abyss’

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon notes that the word ‘abyss’ carries with it the sense of ‘immeasurable depth’. The word is used in only two places in the New Testament outside the book of Revelation: in Luke 8:31 where it is used as a description of the sea, and then in Romans 10:7 to describe the location of the dead in “the deep”. In the book of Revelation, we find the word used seven times. Firstly, in Revelation 9, it is used during the description of the first woe, [2] where the abyss is opened and out of it comes smoke and locusts (verse 3) whose king was called Abaddon and Apollyon – ‘the destroyer’. This passage of Revelation speaks of the era of Arab expansion and of the Muslim conquests of parts of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire under the great Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates during the seventh to tenth centuries. [3] During this period, the Islamic armies rose from the abyss of Arabia, from the barren deserts long inhabited by divided tribes that had been warring for many centuries, but which were united in the early seventh century under the banner of their new monotheistic faith. Thus the word “abyss” here describes the geographical origin of a nascent political and military force comprising peoples which were previously divided and at war but now united in a common cause.

Next, we find the word used in Revelation chapter 11 during the period of the second woe trumpet, which describes the “witness” of those such as the Huguenots who took up arms against the Roman system in defence of their Protestant faith in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Here we find a beast that is coming “out of the abyss” (verse 7, RV) making war against the two witnesses of Revelation 11. This passage refers to the terrible persecutions inflicted by the beast of the Sea – the Western Latin Europe [4] upon Protestant religious revolutionaries. Here again, we see the picture of the abyss as a geographical location where separate nations became united by a joint religious and political fervour.

The next occurrence of the word “abyss” is found in Revelation 17:8, [5] where we are told that the last phase of Daniel’s fourth beast is to rise out of the abyss and make war with the Lord Jesus Christ. This chapter gives us its own proof of the meaning of the word “abyss” that agrees with the explanations given above for previous usage in Revelation. For the Woman of Revelation 17 (the Catholic religious system associated with the Roman beast) [6] is sitting upon many waters (verse 1) and she also sits upon the beast (verse 3) – therefore by implication the two descriptions are the same entity. Revelation 17:15 declares that the waters where the whore “sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues”.

Thus, the last phase of the Roman beast is to be a collection of peoples and nations unified in a single goal to make war with the Lamb (verse 14). Nations which had previously been disparate, divided and in conflict are now unified by the “one mind” (verse 13) that the Creator has given them (verse 17) to join forces and give their power and strength to this central organisation. We should expect that this unity will have a clear religious element to it, just as did the seventh century Arab (Islamic) and sixteenth century European (Catholic) risings from the abyss.

What we expect to occur in Europe

Scripture tells us then that on the territory of Daniel’s fourth Roman beast – the land of the former Roman Empire – a unified conglomerate political, religious and military entity shall rise up out of the abyss of the previously divided European nations. It shall rise out of the abyss of a continent known for its time-honoured bellicose peoples, out of the abyss of a tumultuous sea (Luke 8:31) of many tongues (Revelation 17:15). Out of such a place shall come a common ambition that will bring peace and form a mighty entity among the kingdom of men which the Creator describes as a “beast” before Him, for it shall be associated with the religious fervour of the Roman Catholic apostate system (Revelation 17:3-6).

What a remarkable reference to scripture it is then, that the European beast should describe itself as having risen “out of the abyss”. A direct quote from scripture is applied to the peace which Europe has seen for the past sixty years. The EU itself notes that once the continent was an abyss of war and division but is now united.

Is it not staggering that at this very moment a man can walk past the European Parliament in Brussels and observe immediately outside it a sign eight feet high declaring that Europe has risen “out of the abyss”? The sign is the beginning of an exhibition in the Simone Veil area of the esplanade outside the Brussels European Parliament building. The exhibition consists of forty photographs of “memorable scenes illustrating six decades of peace in Europe”.

Is it not wonderful to note that visitors to the Bronislaw Geremek Agora (central lobby) of the European Parliament in Strasbourg can expect to be greeted by the same words written plain before them?

Furthermore, the phrase “out of the abyss” is not only quoted directly from the English Bible but also from the French and German Bibles. The exhibitions carry the German translation “aus dem abgrund”, which is the exact phrase, word for word, found in the widely used German Luther Bible. In French the title phrase is written “sortir des abîmes”, very closely matching the text of the popular Louis Segond and français courant Bibles.

So we note again how remarkable it is that in our time a European superstate is being created and as if to dispel any doubt that this is in direct fulfilment of prophecy, we see before us today a sign erected inside and outside the two European Parliament buildings in the three main languages of Europe declaring that Europe has risen “out of the abyss” – just as scripture declared that it must before it is “overcome” by the Lamb at his return.

Wonder at the beast

Revelation 17:8 tells us that after the beast is risen out of the abyss, “they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast …”

We note with interest, therefore, that the President of the European Commission (EU civil service), José Manuel Barroso, stated at the award ceremony that the Nobel Peace Prize award was “… an award for the European project – for the people and the institutions – that day after day, for the last sixty years, have built a new Europe … We will honour this prize and we will preserve what has been achieved.” [link]

Truly, is not the world marvelling at the beast in our time – marvelling at its achievements as it awards it with the Nobel peace prize and wondering at its unique place in history, where for the first time nations are voluntarily giving up their own “power and strength” (Revelation 17:13) in pursuit of a common ambition?

But let us not wonder as the world does at the glory of the creation of men, but let us by contrast be as those who strive for their names to be written in the Lamb’s book of life. Let us wonder instead at the clear demonstration of the hand of the Creator among the nations in our time. Let us take comfort and strength that the evidence of fulfilled prophecy provides for us a declaration of His existence and His intention to return His Son to this earth soon.

The position of the United Kingdom in Europe

The prophecies concerning Tarshish inform us that the United Kingdom will, at some point before the battle at Armageddon (Ezekiel 38:13), separate from the shared objectives and common policy of the nations that are part of the European project. We draw attention, therefore, to Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent historic speech on Europe (January 23). Whilst most political speeches can be quickly forgotten (and are designed to be), this speech may well prove to be of greater significance, for the British people and for the Bible believer alike.

Not for decades has a British Prime Minster dared speak of the possibility of UK withdrawal from the EU in such clear terms. Mr Cameron called for “fundamental, far-reaching change” [link] in Europe as he noted that “public disillusionment with the EU is at an all-time high.” The Prime Minister made clear his view that, due to the current crisis, Europe is changing fast as it forges ahead with ever-closer union: “The European Union that emerges from the eurozone crisis is going to be a very different body. It will be transformed perhaps beyond recognition by the measures needed to save the eurozone.” He noted that the EU will soon need to agree on yet another treaty change to put these transformations in place and as this happens (if he is re-elected) he will push to negotiate “a new settlement” for the UK in Europe. Following this the Prime Minister declared that he would then offer an in-out referendum on EU membership to the British people.

So as we observe Europe forging ahead with political union, we observe too Britain’s reluctance to be part of such a project , and we should watch eagerly for potential fulfilments of prophecy in the knowledge that the angels of our Heavenly Father are most certainly working to fulfil the last pieces of God’s will amongst the nations before His Son returns.

However, we remind ourselves again that there is no necessity for us to see any more fulfilment of prophecy before Christ returns, whether it be in relation to the development of the European beast power or any other prophetic sign. Our Lord could return at any moment. We know that we must be ready for the call of our Lord and Master now.

Michael Jenner

[1] Nobel Committee President, Thorbjoern Jagland, Oslo City Hall in Norway, December 10, 2012.

[2] In Revelation 9:1,2, “abyss” is used in conjunction with the Greek word phrear which carries the meaning of ‘pit’ or ‘well’, but on all other occasions of the word ‘abyss’ in Revelation it is used on its own.

[3] For brevity we cannot provide here the scriptural proof for this interpretation but readers are directed to The Apocalypse and History, by W.H. Barker and W.H. Boulton, Section 5, for a succinct explanation of this subject.

[4] For further information, see The Apocalypse and History, by W. H. Barker and W. H. Boulton, Section 7. Also, Thirteen Lectures on the Apocalypse, by R. Roberts, Lecture 7.

[5] The last occurrences of the word “abyss” are found in Revelation 20:1,3 – we shall not deal with those occurrences here.

[6] See Thirteen Lectures on the Apocalypse, by R. Roberts, Lecture 11.


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