Part 8—The Long March of the World Powers Nears Its End
The Bible tells of seven great world powers—mighty empires that have succeeded one another down through thousands of years of world history. Previous articles in this series have shown that we are living in the time of the last of them—the Anglo-American World Power of our day.*—Revelation 17:9, 10.
This same Anglo-American World Power is described earlier in the book of Revelation as a beast that has “two horns.” This two-part world power “tells those who dwell on the earth to make an image” to the political beast that represents all seven world powers.—Revelation 13:11, 14.
How were these prophecies fulfilled, and what do they mean to us today? The interesting answer is the subject of the following article.
AS THE four-year horror of World War I drew to a close, American president Woodrow Wilson and British prime minister David Lloyd George proposed a League of Nations. Its goal was to “achieve international peace and security” and thus keep the horror of such a war from ever occurring again.
It is interesting to note who took this initiative. These two leaders were the heads of the two parts of the English-speaking Anglo-American World Power, the seventh of Bible history. This and other facts regarding the international peace and security organization fit, in an amazing way, what the Bible book of Revelation had said about a short-lived “eighth king” that would both rise and fall in our day. What were some of these interesting parallels?—Revelation 17:11.
The prophecy in Revelation revealed that a “beast” having “two horns like a lamb” would tell “those who dwell on the earth to make an image” to the wild beast, which has been headed by the seven great world powers of Biblical history.
This is exactly what the Anglo-American World Power did. It urged “those who dwell on the earth” to make a League that looked and acted the way great governments do. But really it was only “an image to the wild beast.” It had no power of its own, only what was given it by its member nations. It is not described as coming into power through some great military conquest, as world powers had done. Instead, it springs or comes from the seven world powers. It owes its existence not only to the seventh of them but also to other member nations that include remnants of the preceding six. Would this political image reach the high goals that its founders had hoped for?—Revelation 13:11, 14; 17:11.
Failure of the League
The League of Nations accomplished a great deal in social fields. However, its real goal, as expressed in its official “Covenant of the League of Nations,” was “to promote international cooperation and to achieve international peace and security.” In this it failed.
The League did not succeed in keeping Japan from moving into Manchuria in 1931. It did not keep Bolivia and Paraguay from going to war in 1933. It failed to prevent Mussolini’s 1936 conquest of Ethiopia. However, the League’s deathblow came on September 1, 1939, with the outbreak of World War II—a convulsion of the kind of mass destruction and misery that the League had been established to prevent. That war’s toll? The lives of 16 million soldiers and 39 million civilians, a total of 55 million dead, or almost four times the death toll of World War I!
However, back in 1919, before the League’s Covenant had ever gone into effect, Jehovah’s Witnesses (then known as Bible Students) declared publicly that the League must fail, for peace could not come through such human efforts. Later, at their 1926 convention in London, England, it was pointed out that according to Revelation 17, the “eighth king” appears as a finale to the line of world powers. As the speaker pointed out, “the Lord foretold its birth, its short existence, and its everlasting end.”
Regarding this eighth king, the inspired prophecy said: “The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction.”—Revelation 17:8.
From the mid-war year of 1942, Jehovah’s Witnesses realized that the then dormant peace and security organization would ascend out of its abyss of inactivity. That year the president of the Watch Tower Society told an audience in 52 cities: “Though forty members still profess to adhere to the League, the League is in effect in a state of suspended animation . . . It ‘is not.’” But would it “ascend out of the abyss”? Basing his words on this Bible prophecy, he declared: “The association of worldly nations will rise again.”
As the prophecy had stated, this eighth king “was” from 1920 until 1939. It ‘was not’ from 1939 until World War II ended in 1945. Then it ascended “out of the abyss,” reactivated as the League’s successor, the United Nations.
High Hopes Unfulfilled
Delegates from 50 nations signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco on June 26, 1945. Its preamble began: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind . . . ”
Hopes that were built up for the UN exceeded all reality. Former U.S. secretary of state Cordell Hull said it held the key to “the very survival of our civilization.” U.S. president Harry Truman called it a “supreme chance to . . . create an enduring peace under the guidance of God.” The UN’s Charter was called “possibly the most momentous document ever produced by man” and “a turning point in the history of civilization.” Forty years later, Gregory J. Newell of the U.S. Department of State said: “The cause was oversold: disappointment was inevitable.”
Like the League, the UN has accomplished a great deal in social fields. But it has neither guaranteed peace nor stopped war. Former prime minister Harold Macmillan of Britain told the British House of Commons in 1962 that “the whole foundation on which the United Nations was built has been undermined.”
Originally many people viewed this organization with almost religious fervor. They believed that this “image” would do what the Bible says only God’s Kingdom will do: establish lasting peace, justice, and a truly united world. They strongly disagreed with Bible prophecies that showed that men’s efforts could not be the true source of peace. However, as the UN reached the age of 40, historian Thomas M. Franck said that “it is . . . much less effective than we had hoped in 1945.” As U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz commented: “The birth of the United Nations certainly did not transform the world into a paradise.”
The UN has not succeeded because human governments have not eliminated the true obstacles to peace: nationalism, avarice, poverty, racism, despotism, and the influence of Satan on the world. People cling to these governments, not because the outlook is bright but because they have no better hope.—Revelation 12:12.
The existence of the United Nations, and the effort that so many people have put into it, shows how deeply people of the earth realize the need for a change. That change will come but in a different and more effective way. Which way?
Remember that the Bible says there would be only seven successive “kings,” or world powers. No major world power is mentioned after that. The Bible even says that the temporary “eighth king . . . goes off into destruction.”—Revelation 17:10, 11.
But the Bible also says that there is a better hope. It promises that something else will bring the peace, justice, and united world that people so desperately seek. It says: “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these [failing human] kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:44.
This is the rulership about which Jesus spoke, and for which his followers have prayed when they said: “Let your kingdom come.” (Matthew 6:10) This Kingdom is not just some influence for good in the hearts of men. Rather, it is an actual heavenly rulership, a governing of earth from the spirit realm. It will change the way we live on earth.—Revelation 21:1-4.
What the Bible says about that exciting new rulership, how it will operate, and the peace, justice, and united world it will produce will be the subject of the next and final article in this series.
These world powers were discussed in former issues of this magazine: (1) Egypt, February 1; (2) Assyria, February 15; (3) Babylon, March 1; (4) Medo-Persia, March 15; (5) Greece, April 15; (6) Rome, May 1; (7) the Anglo-American World Power, May 15.
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The Extent of the War
World War II, which marked the demise of the League of Nations, took an astounding toll of lives. The Encyclopædia Britannica (1954 edition) illustrated the extent of the death toll by giving the ratio of military deaths during the war to the 1940 population of various countries. Among the figures are these: The United States lost in battle one person in the military for every 500 members of its 1940 population; China, one out of 200; the United Kingdom, one out of 150; France, one out of 200; Japan, one out of 46; Germany, one out of 25; and the U.S.S.R., one out of every 22. When we consider that the civilian casualties often exceeded the military losses, we can readily see how human efforts had indeed failed to bring true peace and security.
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‘Since the UN’s formation, twenty million persons have died in wars, a mournful fact attesting to the cost of that failure.’—“Nation Against Nation,” by Thomas M. Franck