End-times prophecies have been of interest to Christians and non-Christians alike for centuries. Attempting to predict the timing of events related to the end times and the key players involved is a favored pastime for students of the Bible. A common and intriguing question has to do with the role of the European Union (EU) in the time leading up to and including the tribulation. To address this question, we’ll look at a couple dreams that Daniel interpreted.
King Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a disturbing dream one night, and he called on his wise men to tell him both what the dream was and its interpretation. No one could except Daniel, who had been recently taken captive from Jerusalem. Daniel gives glory to God, “who reveals mysteries” (Daniel 2:28). Then he correctly relates the content of the dream Nebuchadnezzar had: “There before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay” (Daniel 2:31–33). Daniel then provides the interpretation: “You are that head of gold. After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others” (Daniel 2:38–40). Also described is what seems to be an extension of the fourth kingdom, pictured by the statue’s feet, made “partly of iron and partly of baked clay” (Daniel 2:33).
In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, we see the chronological order of the kingdoms of the world. Each successive kingdom is of a lesser quality in some way: gold to silver to bronze to iron to an iron-and-clay mixture. But each kingdom is stronger than the one that precedes it. Daniel specifies that Babylon is the gold head. Following that, we can identify the other kingdoms as Medo-Persia (the silver arms and chest), Greece (the bronze belly and thighs), and Rome (the iron legs). The feet represent a kingdom somehow related to Rome (iron mixed with clay).
Later, Daniel experiences a similarly themed dream. In his dream, he sees the kingdoms of the world coming as various beasts. The fourth beast Daniel sees is one he describes as “terrifying and frightening and very powerful” (Daniel 7:7). This dreadful beast “had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns” (verse 7). As Daniel watches, “another horn, a little one, . . . came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully” (Daniel 7:8).
An angel interprets the dream for Daniel, stating that “the fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people” (Daniel 7:23–25).
The Kingdom of Iron
In both dreams, the fourth world kingdom is associated with iron. This kingdom, Rome, “breaks and smashes everything” (Daniel 2:40) and is said to “devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it” (Daniel 7:23). The Roman Empire was well known for crushing all resistance with an iron heel. Also in both dreams is the detail that the Roman kingdom (or some semblance of it) would be divided: the feet of the statue have ten toes, and the terrible beast has ten horns representing ten kings.
The European Union
Is the European Union linked to the ten toes of Daniel 2 or the ten-horned beast of Daniel 7? Some speculate that there is some connection. The precursor to the European Union was the European Economic Community, formalized with the Treaty of Rome in 1957. The current EU was organized in 1993, and some Bible scholars view the EU as potentially fulfilling the prophecies of the final kingdom of the world. One difficulty with this identification is that the revived Roman Empire of prophecy is a federation of ten kingdoms, whereas the current EU has nearly 30 members. But, given the common currency and shared sovereignty among member nations, the European Union could well be a model for the coming “super state” of the Antichrist in the end times. When the “little horn” of Daniel 7:8 emerges, it will come from a federation of nations much like the EU.
One of the world kingdoms prophesied in Daniel will be a unified group of nations related somehow to the Roman Empire. Today’s unified Europe, represented in the European Union, shows the will of the people to unite and lays the groundwork for another such a coalition in the future. The word of the Lord cannot be broken. One day, the Antichrist will rise to power, subduing three of the ten united kings before him. The kingdom that he leads will wage war against the saints and prevail against them for a time (Daniel 7:21; cf. Revelation 17:14). But this only happens “until the Ancient of Days arrived and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints” (Daniel 7:22). At that time, “the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire” (Daniel 7:11; cf. Revelation 19:20). No matter what he boasts of or how powerful he seems to be, the Antichrist will be brought low, stripped of his might, and consigned to his doom.