The Roman Empire's Greatest Caesar

by Dave Breese

One of the great calls of our time comes in the form of the insistent voice of many who say, "We must have a new world order." People are willing to respond with great enthusiasm to anyone who promises "We can bring to pass the dawn of a new age." We are close to the place where we can expect a convincing and charismatic voice to say, "Follow me, I will lead you into a bright Utopia. All of our expectations for tomorrow need now be transformed because a new and golden age is certainly coming upon us." One can certainly see that, given the mental state of our time, people are looking for a human savior and are willing to enthusiastically respond. Jack Anderson, the columnist, said, "The world is now in such a condition that everyone appears to be waiting for a rider and a white horse to pick them up and carry them off to a splendid tomorrow."

Will there be such a rider on a white horse? Can we anticipate that a world government will come to pass which supervenes; its power above all of the nations of the world? Does this represent a real possibility for our time?

The answer is that it represents a possibility for our time and a certainty for a given time. That given time may well be now. Yes, the rise of Antichrist could well come to pass within our lifetimes. How do we know this? We know this because we read the Bible and attempt to become students of the Word of God. The Bible tells us, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy, unto which you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts" (2 Pet. 1: 19). The Bible indicates that we cannot know what a day or an hour shall bring forth. Happily, however, it gives us a clear prophetic picture so that we can know the pattern of the future. Knowing this, our lives are lived with anticipation and expectation, for we know that our God presides above history.

We therefore do not believe that the world is careening along, out of control with no strong hand at the wheel. No, indeed! Just the opposite is true. One of the founding fathers said, "There is a just God who presides above the destinies of nations." This is one of the great truths on which our nation of America was founded. Other nations might well and profitably pursue the same course.

There are a number of ways in which God in His Word reveals the scenario of the future. Being aware of these, we can come to an understanding of history. One of those ways is to consider the scenario of the five kings.

During the captivity of Israel, the Holy Land and the city of Jerusalem was controlled by Babylon and its headstrong king. That king was Nebuchadnezzar and he had a very troublesome dream one night. His magicians could not explain this dream and so they sought after the person they believed might handle the problem. That person was Daniel, one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament. Daniel appeared before the king and gave him a most telling explanation of the dream which had befallen him. Daniel said:

Thou, 0 king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee, and the form of it was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest until a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon its feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces. Then were the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them; and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth (Dan. 2:31-35).

Daniel Explains

After showing the king what he had seen, Daniel then proceeded to give the divine interpretation. In substance, he said that the entire history of mankind would come to pass under the hegemony of four great kingdoms. These kingdoms were Babylon, Media Persia, Greece, and Rome. Four great kingdoms - their personal history will embrace the story of all history.

We notice quickly, upon reading this account, that considerably more space is devoted in the Word of God to the fourth kingdom, which is Rome, than the other three. Concerning the fourth kingdom, Daniel said:

And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; and, as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mi xed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men; but they shall not adhere one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay (Dan. 2:40-43).

Daniel then is saying that the mighty fourth kingdom will be characterized by great strength and permanent divisions, and that it will finally be destroyed by the stone cut out without hands that will roll down a great mountain and crush the kingdoms of this world, especially the fourth kingdom.

How instructive are these words from the prophet Daniel! He gives us the scenario of history in a few short verses and reminds us of the triumph of God over it all. Because of the emphasis given on this fourth kingdom, we need to think further about Rome and the role it will play as we move toward the consummation of history. In a later chapter from Daniel 9 we have another scenario that also tells us of the events of history and the completion of the divine scenario. Daniel reminds us that "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and. upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy" (Dan. 9:24).

Here we have the shortest version in the entire Bible of the whole scenario of history. We do well to note that here history is interpreted in terms of its moral content. This great chapter of world history will be finished when God makes an end of sins and produces reconciliation- for iniquity. Therefore, we do well to remember that history is interpreted by God, not as victorious military battles, economic triumphs, and the like. No, indeed, history is interpreted by God as a moral scenario that must be consummated by the Lord.

Remembering this, we then note with interest Daniel's very special words about a set of events that will occur toward the end of world history. He says, Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah, the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary, and the end of it shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined (Dan. 9:25-26).

In these telling statements, Daniel reminds us of two great princes with whom Israel will have to deal. One is "Messiah the Prince" and, as we well know, this is Jesus Christ. He is the prince who is the Messiah of Israel, a fact yet to be discovered by the nation of Israel.

But Daniel also speaks of "the prince that shall come." He tells us that this prince will emerge from the same cruel, conquering people who destroy the sanctuary (the Temple at Jerusalem) and the city of Jerusalem itself. Here we have one of the most instructive verses in Scripture as to the people from whom the Antichrist will spring.

Who destroyed the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70? The answer is that Rome did. Who destroyed the Temple in that awful program of conquest? Once again, it was Rome.

Who then will be the people who will produce the Antichrist? This verse indicated that it will be the kingdom of Rome that fosters the escalation to power of this dreadful ruler.

The Coming Prince

Rome was once the greatest kingdom on earth. Its power was extended south to Africa, east to the Holy Land, northeast to Eastern Europe, and even north to the center of the land to England. Everything from Spain to what is now Russia was controlled by the Roman legions, Roman law, and Roman customs.

One of the characteristics of Roman rule that we remember with some degree of admiration to this day was its strong government. This succession of governments during the days of Rome's prosperity was controlled by Roman caesars whose names remain with us until this day.

There was the great Augustus, who was chiefly responsible for the extension of Roman law. There was the cruel Caligula, who showed the world what decadence could do when it is brought to power. Then there was the reprobate Nero. Nero was the great enemy of Christians and was degenerate in every way.

We will recommend for fascinating reading a book on the succession of caesars in the days of their control of ancient Rome, Caesar and Christ, by Will Ariel Durant, who have given us helpful research in this regard. Their entire series, "The Story of Civilization," is most helpful.'

Gibbon gives us an additional set of insights in his classic, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. It seemed impossible, but the imperial power of Rome slowly eroded until finally Rome fell to the barbarians attacking from every direction.

Durant suggests, however, that the power of Rome was never fully obliterated. Rather, he insists that it continued in the form of an imperious system that operated tyrannically in the world of religion just as Rome itself had operated tyrannically in the realm of politics - and also religion. This continuing system, built along the facsimile .of the Roman hierarchy, is for Durant, the Roman Catholic Church.

The reminder of this is at least the fact that Rome had a strong religious component in its idolatrous system, along with government power. Realizing this, we note with greater interest the teaching of the prophet Daniel that Rome will rise again. Rome will then produce "the prince that shall come." He will become the Antichrist! He will rule the world!

Therefore, one who would understand the direction of history would do well to pay careful attention to the developments in the new Rome, Europe. Yes, Europe and the prince that shall come are inextricably tied together. The scenario of Europe, therefore, can be observed profitably, and Daniel is properly the object of the question, "What are the prophetic implications of a revived Europe?" Let us think about the European situation of our time as helpful insight into this question.

At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, a voice was sounded from Europe that caught the world's attention. Europe announced that it was developing an entity, which it called the EEC. This was the European Economic Community. Europe had been rather benign since the days of World War 11, but now appeared to be noticing itself once again. Europe saw alliances coming together in various other areas of the world, and also the emergence of nations out of the ashes of the war that were latent with the possibility of becoming superpowers. Japan then (and even now) is an illustration of this.

There are voices in Europe that were lifted, saying, "We risk the possibility of Europe becoming very weak unless we can put it all together." What we do not want is for Europe to be a set of Banana Republics like Latin America - divided, multi-directed, ambiguous, and without influence in the world. So it seemed that the European Economic Community was the beginning of an answer.

The Call to Unity

Europe soon recognized that if it could put together the nations of Europe, it would have an entity populated by more than 325 million people and with the largest gross national product in the world. The bankers of Europe salivated over the possibility of becoming the brokers of world commerce once again. Conference after conference was held to respond affirmatively to the call for a united economic community in Europe. The EEC became a serious thrust for power on the part of Europe. The world still underestimates the possibility of the European Economic Community. The leaders of Europe are clever diplomats, forceful financiers and adept at world diplomacy. Europe in the past has given us such individuals as Tallyrand, Mitternicht, and others - diplomats par excellence. Under the leadership of successors to these men - like Delores of France - Europe began seriously to knit itself together to become an economic union.

Out of this growing economic union a new consciousness emerged in Europe that the unification of these states would have to be characterized by more than only economics. Therefore, Europe quickly moved to face the necessity of military union. One of the truisms of life is that the person who is rich must protect his riches or someone will come in and steal them. This is true not only of individuals, but also of nations. A very good way to lose the physical riches that one possesses is for that person or that entity to be thought weak and defenseless.

"We must move toward military union" was then the call. France and Germany conducted unified military exercises on the field. Imagine - France and Germany, mortal enemies who had fought many wars between themselves now taking the lead in military unity. The program continues with a standardization of weapons, transportation systems, a standard gauge, and many other things. Military union continues to grow.

In the minds of the leaders of Europe, a third form of union has appeared to be most necessary. That is political union. Military and economic union would continue to be very difficult without a new and unprecedented political unity in Europe. Europe is strongly divided by class, race, religion, a sense of national destiny, and the like. Divisions as deep as these are not easily brought into a new and unprecedented unity. More and more talk, therefore, has characterized Europe as to what form of government could be conceived that would produce this common political unity. What can be done to cause people to leave their narrow nationalism and march in step in the unity that is needed? We can be sure that European leadership is still very deep in thought about that set of questions.

There are a number of new developments which have affected the thinking of Europe in that regard. One of them is the dissolving of the Soviet Union. Indeed, NATO itself was formed for the purpose of inhibiting Soviet aggression to the west. The days of the Cold War saw the buildup of the NATO forces, and with American help they can be interpreted as having succeeded inhibiting Russian expansionism. At the moment one can say that the Soviet Union is no more, although we must hold our breath about the future.

So the question is duly posed in Europe, "What part will Russia play in NATO?" "Should Russia become a member of NATO as it is now petitioning?" Political unity continues then to have its complications, which complications seem to be growing every day.

A second consideration affecting Europe is the endless series of wars in the troubled Balkans. Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia seem still to be locked in a fatal embrace with one another with the "answers" to the problem escaping almost everyone. What will be the outcome of this complicated process? There are a series of "threes" which can help us discuss the question.

1. The war in the Balkans embraces three nations.
2. It also touches three races.
3. It is a confusion of three religions.
4. It is characterized by three potential backers.

But as relates to political unity, the Balkans War seems to suggest that political unity is a total impossibility when there are so many other pressures for division.

As a consequence, it is now commonly reported that Europe is facing "the bumpy road to reunification." Bumpy indeed, for the implications of European unity and its related problems approach almost the point of infinity. Nevertheless, the pressure toward unity continues in Europe. All of these forms of union are now embraced in the simple expression, "European Union." So the "EEC" continues to be held before the eyes of the people of Europe as the goal toward which they are moving.

What will finally bring to pass European union which, as we have suggested, is predicted in the Word of God? There are two other components which must come to pass in Europe in order to realize the goal of unity.

The first is that Europe must choose an effective, forceful, charismatic, dynamic leader. In human affairs it is never really possible to put together any great program of unity without that unity being characterized by a person. Leadership means everything in all of the affairs of men. Clever ideas, fine goals, fond ambitions, and lofty hopes are so much empty rhetoric apart from their being embodied in the form of a strong man. Again and again in history, the frustrations of people were vanquished and hope was built within them by the words of a leader. Europe has seen the latest, great example of that in the form of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. PreRevolutionary France experienced that with the escalation of Napoleon Bonaparte as the emperor. Peter the Great did that for Russia and Alexander for the Grecian Empire of Antiquity. Yes, the key to unity is a charismatic leader. People cannot be beguiled to gather around a strong center unless in the epic center is a person with flashing eyes and visions for the future. He must be the "Man with a Plan."

There's one more characteristic, however, that is imperative in order to produce a vortex of history. That component is what the world calls "ideology." A plan for the future must be characterized by something great to believe, some compelling philosophy, some great truth that draws people up and out of their common, banal circumstances. Passionate unity cannot be created unless the speaker can reach into the vital core of the personality, the spiritual center of everything. Many who otherwise might have been significant leaders, forgetting this, never moved much beyond mediocrity. This quality - charisma perhaps - is found in people only very seldom. It is a one-in-a-thousand, one-in-a-million capability. The ability to press a compelling ideology upon the masses of people is the key to the control of a nation. In that day, the day of the rise of Antichrist, it will be a needed key toward world control. Such a person will emerge out of the European situation. Watch for him.

What could possibly be the trigger mechanism that causes Europe and then the world to turn in admiration and obedience to the Antichrist? There are several possibilities for such a thing in today's world. They certainly would include the following.

1. Global Economic Collapse: The present world economic situation is on the most precarious footing in a] I of history. Voracious governments have raised the program of taxation to the place where they are now confiscating the wealth of individuals. This is a most shortsighted activity because it will produce depression on the part of people of substance and economic depression in the external world. Economic capability does not grow out of government manipulation. It grows out of individual confidence and individual competence.

2. The Threat of Nuclear War: Nuclear proliferation continues in our time with no assurance that it will come to a halt. Therefore, the possibility of one of the great powers or even a rogue nation of the world producing a nuclear exchange is a very real one. Iraq, with its near insane political situation, could easily decide to shoot at someone. Libya, under the mad Colonel Kadaffi, is looking for a suitcase bomb even now. Russia, savoring the old days, could decide on a fast nuclear conquest somewhere. Israel, facing destruction by a 500,000-man Arab army could begin a nuclear war. The prospect of this is most frightening to the people of earth. Should such a war be threatened, they could be expected to turn to the assuring voice of the great leader who promised peace and safety. We

The Man with the Plan note that the Scripture says, "For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape" (I Thess. 5:3). The promise of peace has again and again been the producer of false confidence and the trigger mechanism for war.

The fact is that any kind of percolation - such as a war between small nations - could escalate into a larger conflict and the stated danger of global war. Any one of these developments could cause people and nations to take leave of their senses and opt for global unity. That's when the "Man with a Plan" will appear. We can be sure that the Antichrist will not have to shoot his way into power. Rather, he will be accepted by a grateful people as the proper custodian of the future.

We do well to note that the Bible itself states a number of conditions that will call for the rise of this world leader and make possible his acceptance by the peoples of earth. The Christians at Thessalonica were one day concerned by the possibility that the Day of the Lord had come upon them. The Day of the Lord is that period of time of divine retribution. The world is even now treasuring up wrath against the Day of Wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds. This prescription given to us by the apostle Paul is in effect as of now. The vast iniquities of men are being, in effect, put in the bank and one day will be poured out upon the society. That is the beginning of the Day of the Lord, the time of the Tribulation.

But these dear Thessalonican Christians, under persecution, thought that perhaps the Day of the Lord had come. With words of assurance then, the apostle Paul speaks to them and says, "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord is present" (2 Thess. 2:1-2).

So it is that the apostle Paul argues that because Christ has not come to gather us to himself - because the rapture of the Church has not taken place -- the Day of the Lord has not commenced. This must have come as great assurance to these Christians who were already being subverted by those who said to them that the Church must plan on going through the Tribulation.

Having said this, the apostle Paul gives us a number of characteristics that will appear in the world in the days of the emergence of Rome's greatest caesar. The first is apostasy, "That day shall not come, except there come the falling away first" (2 Thess. 2:3). The expression, "the falling away," means to stand away from, to betray a former loyalty, to turn your back to an earlier commitment. The word opistimi is the word we translate "apostasy."

So it is that the Scripture predicts apostasy as one of the characteristics of the day of the emergence of Antichrist.

Do we see anything like that in today's world? The answer is, of course. In the United States alone there are possibly 400,000 churches. How many still stand for the truth of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the premillenial return of the Lord, and other cardinal Christian doctrines? Indeed, the Church will become so depraved by apostasy as we move to the last days that it will be easily co-opted by the Antichrist. He will make organized religion a tool in his hand. Thank God that by that time the Church will be taken from the world in that blessed event of the Rapture.

A second characteristic of the rise of Antichrist will be anarchy. Paul says, "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now hinders will continue to hinder until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:7-9).

The Bible indicates that we live in a wretchedly evil world. However, the evil has not yet taken over the world in the sense of the mastery of everything. Why is this the case? It is because God has ordained a force that inhibits the rise of evil in the world. That force is personal responsibility, marriage, the family, and civil authority. That force is also the Holy Spirit of God working in the life of the Church. When these things are gone, nothing inhibits the tidal wave of iniquity that the Antichrist will actually bring to pass and upon which he will build his kingdom and influence.

A third condition that will make possible his rise is strong delusion, "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:11-12). By the days of the emergence of the Antichrist, the world will be so confused, deluded by the many lies that it has embraced, that it hardly knows truth from falsity. That delusion will be something on which the Antichrist capitalizes, using it to produce the emergence of his power.

In the midst of all these things, the Antichrist, the man of sin, the son of perdition will be revealed. The Scripture says that he "opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he, as God, sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. 2:4). Here we have the ultimate of arrogance, a mere man professing himself to be God. Be very sure that this presumption does not go unnoticed by the Lord. The Antichrist, at this point, has a very short life ahead.

The Antichrist Appears

Considering all these things, there certainly is a question that remains. That question is, "Do we see these conditions developing in our time?" We suggest that we only need to consider the daily news, check the newspapers and magazines, and involve ourselves in the acquiring of awareness about our world. With such a program we immediately begin to notice in our time the remarkable developments of those things which are consonant with the age of the rise of Antichrist. As we have seen, the Bible, via the prophets, gives us many characteristics of the time of the emergence of the beast. A quick glance across today's world must lead us to agree that there is a frightening similarity between the events of our time and those predicted in the Word of God. The Bible speaks again and again about "the latter days," "the last days the end of the world," and other such terminal statements. In speaking about these things, we are then given by the Lord a set of emergent characteristics, "signs" of the end times. In this regard, we have a most interesting conversation by our Lord which is recorded by Scripture.

The Pharisees, with the Sadducees, came and, testing him, desired that he would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and overcast. 0 you hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky; but can you not discern the signs of the times? (Matt. 16:1-3).

The lesson of this account should be clear to all and has an even greater application in our times. Can we discern the face of the sky? Indeed, we can. Via the amazing modem satellites, we can look at every cloud in an entire hemisphere, all in one viewing. The face of the sky is a million times more discernable to us than it was to the Pharisees of that day.

But what about the signs of the times? It seems that our generation is totally unable to draw a conclusion from the dark clouds around us. Here is a cloud of moral iniquity about to break upon us and we notice it not. The clouds of judgment gather in a more ominous fashion than ever and we take no notice. That, Jesus said, is hypocrisy. That is, we pretend to be knowledgeable about the things that are important, but we are willingly ignorant, in fact, concerning the things that matter. Signs of the times are everywhere, but a kind of spiritual blindness prevents the world from truly seeing them.

Willing spiritual ignorance produces a result predicted by our Lord when He spoke to the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. The Scripture says:

And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, if you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things which belong unto your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come up on you, that your enemies shall cast a trench about you, and compass you around, and keep you on every side, and shall lay you even with the ground, and your children within you, and they shall not leave in you one stone upon another; because you knew not the time of your visitation (Luke 19:41-44).

The things that make for your peace, "the time of your visitation," - what telling words. These warnings were addressed to the nation of Israel and we can be sure that they are addressed to us as well. Any nation, any people, which forgets that we live in a dangerous world, relaxes its guard, and says, "All Is well," is very close to judgment. Yes, the time of divine visitation upon our world may well be very close. Not to keep this in mind is surely a sin of omission. Not to be concerned with the things that make for our peace, is in the same class, a sin of omission.

What makes for peace when peace is available? It is the blessing of God and the protection of Jesus Christ. Any substitute foundation that pretends to produce peace is false. Nevertheless, forgetting this, the world will one day turn to its great leader and suppose that he can bring peace. Indeed, he will make this promise, but alas, the promise will be false. "When they shall say, peace and safety, sudden destruction will come upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape" (I Thess. 5:3).

One day, Rome's greatest caesar will promise deliverance from that destruction and the glorious result of world peace. The fact is that the result will be just the opposite of this. It will be war and destruction. Finally, Rome's greatest caesar will be deposed by the reign of Jesus Christ. We look forward to that day and, indeed, we see that day approaching.