The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is the home of Her Britannic Majesty’s Diplomatic Service. On the domed ceiling above the grand staircase of this historic building are written the words “Let the people praise thee O God, yea let all the people praise thee, O let the nations rejoice and be glad, for thou shall judge the folk righteously and govern the nations upon the earth”.

This slight paraphrase of the KJV rendering of Psalm 67:3-4 is indicative of the deeply religious sentiment that was once held by the establishment of the United Kingdom and of its elites that governed the British Empire. In name, at least, there was recognition of Almighty God and the authority of the Scriptures in the operation of the Empire. Men like William Wilberforce and William Pitt the Younger were examples of sincere Protestants who, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, tried to instil biblical principles into British law in order to end the abhorrent slave trade.

Britain far astray from biblical truth

This eighteenth century Britain, out of which the Christadelphian community in the UK began, is in stark contrast to the fiercely secular Britain of today.

The British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey summarised their findings in 2018 as follows:

“…we see a continuation of one of the most important trends in post-war history: the steady decline in religion and belief among the British public. … The proportion of the British population identifying as Christian has fallen from two-thirds (66%) to just over one-third (38%) since the BSA survey series began in 1983.”1

Anyone who lives in Britain today can attest to the fact that understanding of the Bible has passed out of common knowledge. Even the most well-known biblical records, such as David and Goliath and the Crossing of the Red Sea are unknown to the majority of British children. Scant respect is given to Bible teaching—much less, any authority.

Yet despite the lack of biblical knowledge and belief in Britain, we know from prophecy that the United Kingdom has a part to play in God’s plan which, although she be ignorant of it, she will fulfil to the glory of God.

To avoid any misunderstanding from within or without our Christadelphian community, we must clearly state that there can be no suggestion that a Bible believer can draw any sense of national pride from being British.

We are strangers and sojourners wherever we live, including in Britain. Absolutely no sense of nationalism can enter our minds when we talk of these things. Britain, like all nations, is governed in ways that are far from divine principles and as such we do not, in any way, celebrate the British establishment or British national conduct over the centuries.

What we do desire is to be fascinated observers of God’s hand moving the nations – as He prophesied He would millennia ago – to prepare the way for Christ’s return.

The relationship between Britain and Europe shown in prophecy

We do not intend here to give the full biblical proof of the identification of Tarshish as Britain as this has been done in many other articles. We will take it as read that the Bible designator “Tarshish” does, indeed, refer to Britain. However, it will be useful to remark briefly on why Bible students have expected a conglomerate of European nations to form and for Britain to be separate from them.

Put in its simplest terms the Bible describes a relationship between Britain and the European powers.

Revelation chapter 17 describes a coming together of the last form of the fourth beast of Daniel’s prophecy, the Roman beast. Last, because it will “make war with the Lamb” when he returns, but “the Lamb shall overcome them”. We know that this prophecy requires the European nations (that previously formed the core of the Western Roman Empire) to voluntarily come together giving their “power and strength” to the beast.

This led many Bible students to look for the formation of a United Europe. Brother John Thomas looked for the development of a “European Commonwealth” (Eureka, 1861) and Brother Robert Roberts expected Europe to “unite in a unanimous policy” (Christendom Astray from the Bible, 1884). Many non-Christadelphians wrote of the same: for example, Samuel Garratt stated that the development of a “United States of Europe” would be a fulfilment of prophecy (Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, 1897).

We are seeing the fulfilment of this through the “European Union” in our time, which is recognised as a unique experiment in the history of mankind. Never before have countries with diverse histories, cultures and languages voluntarily come together in this way. And – we must be clear – the Bible didn’t predict that this unique organisation of nations in the world would happen just anywhere. It showed it would happen in the part of the world that was once the Roman Empire. The formation of the European Union, then, is a wonderful proof of the accuracy of the prophetic word and of the nearness of Christ’s return.

In the words of José Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission:

“We are a very special construction unique in the history of mankind… Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire… What we have is the first non-imperial empire…We have 27 countries that fully decided to work together and to pool their sovereignty.” 2007, Statements to the European Parliament

However, Bible students have understood that Britain would have to stand apart from this European “beast”. This is because of the relationships between the nations set out in Ezekiel 38. Some nations – which are demonstrably referring to European lands2, such as Gomer and Magog – are aligned with the Northern host that is invading Israel before Christ’s revealing to the world when he saves natural Israel.

By contrast, the merchant power of Tarshish (Britain) and her young lions (Realm and Commonwealth countries) are not aligned with this invading host, and ask the reason for the invasion (v13).

The flow of the argument then is this: firstly, through Revelation 17 we expect a United Europe to form that will eventually become militarised so as to fight against Christ. Secondly, through Ezekiel 38, we see some of the European nations aligning with the Northern confederacy that will invade Israel. Thirdly, it is a logical assumption that Britain is not part of this European group because Ezekiel talks of Tarshish as being unaware of the details of the invasion and of having a separate voice, aligned with its “young lion” allies to question the invader.

Brexit seemed almost impossible

Britain acceded to the “European Communities” in 1973. Following that, the UK became an integral part of the forming of the EU. Eventually Britain found itself at the very heart of the European establishment and of EU policy making, setting much of the agenda of the Union. In 2005 the UK held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, when the fiercely Europhile Tony Blair was Prime Minister, and at that time Britain seemed as pro-EU as any European nation. A course of events that could bring about a British exit from Europe looked unlikely in the extreme.

Yet in all this, some of our brethren continued to claim, based upon Bible prophecy, that they expected the UK to leave the EU at some point. They were mocked – by some without and by some within. In only a decade-and-a-half since then – a blink of an eye in prophetic terms – that which seemed almost impossible has come to pass in God’s good time and God’s Word has been vindicated mightily yet again.

British election results

To say the overwhelming Conservative party victory was a surprise would be an understatement. No political commentators had predicted such a profound loss for the British Labour party. Many of the core Labour strongholds were lost, including some seats like Rother Valley in South Yorkshire, which had been continuously Labour for over a century.

As for the reasons for the resounding defeat, many commentators have argued that large numbers of working class Labour supporters changed to vote Conservative because they wanted Brexit and believed Boris Johnson’s constant refrain of “Get Brexit done”.

However, it is overly simplistic to state that Brexit alone caused the landslide Conservative victory. The perception of the Labour leader, Mr Corbyn, was a significant factor. It seems that even those who had voted Labour all their lives could not bring themselves to vote for Mr Corbyn. The respected UK newspaper The Guardian ran an article entitled:

“Corbyn, antisemitism and Brexit: Labour MPs on why they lost” (Dec 17th)

The Guardian reported that Graham Jones, the former Labour whip, had said:

“Four out of five voters would not vote for Corbyn and his policies. Door one wouldn’t vote for him because he was scruffy; the next person wouldn’t vote for him because of antisemitism in the party; the next because of connections with Hamas; and the next because he seemed unable to lead. On one road, you might get the full set”.

That anti-semitism was among the reasons for the loss is clear. Especially because large sections of the UK Jewish community have traditionally been supportive of the Labour movement (reflected, in part, in historic political links to the socialist principles upon which the modern state of Israel was founded). The loss of much Jewish support was damaging to the party but the concerns over anti-semitism extended well beyond British Jewry and as such became a major factor in the Labour loss.

Boris Johnson’s message could not have been simpler, and it turned out the British public really did want to “just get Brexit done”. This left Prime Minister Johnson with a huge majority of 80 seats, the largest Conservative majority since 1987.

What is the Brexit plan?

The UK officially left the European Union at 23:00 on 31 January 2020. The rest of 2020 is being described as a “transition period” during which the UK will remain compliant with all EU rules, including financial obligations. Throughout the transition, the UK will be negotiating a trade deal with the EU, but many trade experts have expressed incredulity that a comprehensive deal could be done by the end of the year. Yet Downing Street has insisted that a deal can be done this year and that no extension to this transition period will be sought.

With the “remained” MPs purged from both the Labour and Conservative parties following the election – and given the Government’s large majority – the Prime Minister has a strong domestic position which he can use to lead the negotiations with Brussels.

It was no secret that the EU wanted the UK to focus on a trade deal with Brussels first, before looking to secure deals with other countries. However, the UK Government has pushed ahead with simultaneous discussions regardless. According to the UK Department of International Trade, the UK already has agreements with 20 countries “expected to take effect when the existing EU trade agreements no longer apply to the UK, following the transition period”. These agreements mean that the current EU trade arrangements with these countries will apply in full to the independent UK at the end of the transition period.

The positive mood of the British people

On February 1, the day after Brexit day, Boris Johnson wrote a letter of encouragement and triumph to members of the Conservative party:

“This morning is the moment when a new dawn has broken and the curtain is going up on a new act in our great national drama. An astonishing moment of hope, that many thought would never come…a moment of real national renewal and change.”

The Prime Minister said that the UK had “recaptured” its sovereignty and could now “control immigration, create free ports, liberate the UK fishing industry, strike free trade deals and make laws that benefit the UK”.

Around the UK, it is fair to say that this sentiment of optimism and hope is catching on, especially outside the “London and Westminster bubble”. People are relieved to finally get past Brexit and are looking forward to the future with a feeling of excitement about what this could mean. For some, the British lion which has been asleep for too long will at last be awakened by the Brexit alarm clock.

There is also now some sense from international investors that they are viewing the UK with more optimism because of the stable, pro-business, majority Government at the helm.

What happens if the UK-EU trade talks fail?

On February 3, at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, Prime Minister Johnson gave a speech describing the trade settlement he wanted with the EU, under the mantra “Unleashing Britain’s Potential”.4

He stated that he was keen for his negotiators to secure a detailed agreement along the lines of the deal the EU has with Canada (an agreement that took seven years to complete).

However, he also said: “There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment, or anything similar”.

By contrast, on the very same day in Brussels, Michel Barnier—the head of the EU’s UK Task Force—stated that for a trade deal to work the UK would need to adhere to “social, environmental, climate and state aid rules”. The difference in approach between the two parties could not be starker.

Prime Minister Johnson went on to say that if the EU does not move from its current position he would settle for an EU-Australia type deal with no free trade agreement at all and tariffs placed on traded goods. This is nothing other than a euphemism for saying that he would settle for a “no-deal” scenario. Nevertheless, Mr Johnson was confident either way – he had “no doubt that in either case the UK will prosper mightily”.

It will be fascinating to observe how these discussions play out. If the UK will not accept EU rules and is prepared for a no trade deal scenario, then the remaining legal and regulatory threads between the UK and Brussels would be severed, allowing Britain to become a completely free merchant power once again.

British trade deals with Realm and Commonwealth countries

The UK is making a strong push to secure trade deals with the Realm countries (countries where Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is monarch) and with the wider Commonwealth nations. At the time of writing, the UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, is currently on a tour of Australia and Asia, to try to secure some more trade deals which are expected to come into effect in 2021.

But is such a growth in inter-Commonwealth trade likely? In 2018, the total value of UK trade was £1.3Tn, and almost half of that was with the EU.

The idea that increased trade with the Commonwealth could somehow replace the EU is still seen by many commentators as utterly preposterous. In terms of the UK’s trade, the entire Commonwealth currently accounts for only about one-sixth of the volume that the EU does. Even then it is not currently a functioning trading block, having had very little to do with international trade for many years.

Yet despite this unlikelihood, the Scriptures show us that we should expect a rapprochement between the Commonwealth countries and a reinvigoration of these old alliances with Britain in the lead “merchant” role.

Let us note here the interesting detail of Ezekiel 38:13, “the merchants of Tarshish with all the young lions thereof ”. What can be meant by the word “all”? Does this mean all the Commonwealth countries or perhaps just the Realm countries? It is not possible for us to be sure at this point – we shall see in the fullness of time. For now, we can say that there will be a real alliance made between these countries, with Britain at the head. When the time comes, every one of the countries in this group shall unite to ask the question, “Art thou come to take a spoil?”.

British trade with Israel

Israel is one of the 20 countries with which the UK has an agreed trade deal, which will come into effect following the transition period. This is important for Israel because the UK is now Israel’s third largest export market (only the US and China import more Israeli goods) and in 2018 the two countries completed £4.4Bn worth of trade.

Efforts are underway to enhance this existing arrangement. On February 6, The Times of Israel reported that the Israeli Prime Minister had said that he and Prime Minister Johnson had “agreed to continue to strengthen the economic relationship between the two countries and to start discussions on a free trade zone between Israel and the UK”.5

UK-Israel trade is not only about Hi-tech innovation: much of the trade is related to pharmaceuticals, minerals and chemicals. Defence sector cooperation is also on the rise. As Israel’s economy continues to prosper, as prophesied, we can expect the newly released merchant focus of the UK to take advantage of this and for trade between the two countries to grow.

EU reaction to Brexit

Now that Britain has exited the EU, discussions are already well underway in Brussels as to the next phase of the “ever closer union” stipulated under the 1957 Treaty of Rome. President Macron of France is already well known for his desire for closer military and economic integration.

With the loss of Britain, France is now the only EU nation with nuclear weapons and the only member state with global military capabilities. As such, this places France in a strong position to mould future EU defence plans. In response to Brexit, the European Union defence project, known as Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) produced a factsheet in November 2019 stating that:

“In light of a changing security environment, the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS) started a process of closer cooperation in security and defence. EU Member States agreed to step up the European Union’s work in this area and acknowledged the need for enhanced coordination, increased investment and more cooperation in developing defence capabilities”.6

There are other fierce internal discussions underway with the remaining EU states jostling for power. For example, Italy has now become the third largest contributor to the EU budget (after Germany and France) and wishes to have an influence commensurate with its contributions.

The EU is already an amazing fulfilment of prophecy – but there is more to come. Whatever the final form the EU will take, Revelation 17 teaches us that these nations are moving inexorably to an even closer union which will result in them having “one mind” to give their “power and strength” to the European beast for “one hour” to “make war with the Lamb”.

She shall turn to her hire

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot…And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the Lord will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth” (Isa 23:15-17).

If we read the Isaiah 23 prophecy of Tyre and Tarshish as a prophecy of latter day Britain, we could suggest that after nearly seventy years of Britain being “forgotten” she should return to her promiscuous trade with the world’s nations. Are we seeing that being fulfilled in our time?

There is no set date for when the British Empire ended and she was “forgotten”, but some argue that the Suez crisis of 1956 was the final nail in the coffin. During all of this time, Queen Elizabeth II has been sitting on the throne (she acceded to the throne in 1952 and her coronation took place in 1953) perhaps fulfilling the words “according to the days of one king”. We watch now to see when Britain will regain somewhat of her previous global prowess. Not with the military might of the past but through her trading influence and her desire to secure wealth. If we observe such a British revival in the next few years, (which, of course, will have followed the seventy years of “Britain forgotten” during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II), this could well suggest a fulfilment of Isaiah 23.

It is interesting to note that the “Brexit 50p coin”, minted to send Britain’s new message to the world that she is open for business, bears words that seem to closely follow the words of Isaiah: “she shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world”.

Isaiah 23:18 goes on to say that in the finality, the selfish gain sought by Britain with her global trade will eventually be used for God’s purposes:

“And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing”.

In the end, we know that all nations, Britain included, will be humbled before the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah when he returns. Britain will learn again of the Word of God, but this time the populace will be educated in sincerity and truth:

“he will teach us of his ways…for out of Zion shall go forth the law”. While many in Britain and beyond are troubled for the future or excited at the prospect of fortunes to be made, we know that all these fleshly emotions will be removed when the kingdom of God is established.

And those lightly regarded words written on the ceiling of the British Foreign Office, under which British diplomats walk each day – totally oblivious to their prophetic power – will at last be true, and will be believed by all men, for they shall see it with their own eyes.

“Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.” (Psa 67:3-4).

References

1 https://www.bsa.natcen.ac.uk/media/39293/1_bsa36_religion.pdf

2 Again we do not intend to give the biblical arguments here – an excellent overview of these proofs can be found in Brother John Allfree’s book on Ezekiel, 1999

3 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/uk-trade-agreements-with-non-eu-countries

4 https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-in-greenwich-3-february-2020

5 https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-uk-to-begin-talks-on-establishing-post-brexit-free-trade-zone-pm-says/

6 https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/pesco_factsheet_november_2019.pdf

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