City of Great Interest

Istanbul or Constantinople is a city of great interest to us, with a key role in prophecy. Richard Fidler’s history starts and ends with the fall of Constantinople on 29 May 1453, a date etched in the minds of those who have understood the “hour and day and month and year” of Revelation 9:15. Mehmed finally breached the Theodosian walls which had kept out waves of invaders until the time period prophesied by Christ came to an end. But the empire continued as a “Ghost Empire”, still there in the streets and stones, and in the manuscripts and ideas taken from the city to fuel the Renaissance. But the book alludes to the greatest sense in which the Byzantine empire lives on in the Third Rome, Moscow. This links the past with the future for we know from Scripture the greater reality of Fidler’s conclusion: “The double-headed eagle, representing the unity of eastern and western empires, still awaits its resurrection in Constantinople, the capital of a universal empire” p453. Constantinople has an important future.

History can be fascinating or boring; but history enlivened by the Scriptures is very interesting. Richard Fidler may be known to Australian readers as presenting a program on ABC local radio before the 12 noon news called Conversations. His history is perhaps enhanced by presenting a travelogue of a father-son adventure with his 14 year old son in January 2014. On the way he tries to answers Joe’s questions and synthesizes the history of this city in an accessible way – making it a book worthy of more than history buffs. Richard Fidler quotes Churchill’s view of history as a flickering lamp to reconstruct the past (p21). But to Christadelphians, history is not flickering but responds to the bright light of Bible prophecy: “Prophecy is the mold into which history is poured”. History is exhilarating as it shows how prophecy has been fulfilled.

Key Characters in the Book of Revelation

The history covers some key characters in the book of Revelation. Constantine, obviously the founder of Constantinople, and key to the 6th Seal and the war in heaven of Revelation 12 gets good coverage in chapter two. Fidler covers his political aspirations, through which the Elohim worked; as well as the quasi-religious behaviour of his mother, Helena.

Why should a man like Constantine bother with solving religious controversies? Fidler provides a human explanation, although we know that the formulation of the Nicaean creed was part of the formation of the system of iniquity.

Justinian, famous for the start of the 1260 years of Catholic domination of the saints, is covered in an intriguing 70 page chapter. In his 38 year reign he restored North Africa, Spain and Italy to the Roman Empire. He left behind his great church, the Hagia Sophia, and many other buildings including the underground cisterns still there today. Yet Fidler, presents him with all of his aws and those of the Empress Theodora. The later emperor Phocas, whom we know for his decree of 610 is not presented in a good light, but as a rather deplorable human being.

Fire, Smoke and Brimstone

Most of the different forces of the six trumpets get some coverage. In particular, there is a very readable exploration of the rise of Islam and the sorties of the Moslem armies against Constantinople until it finally fell in 1453. Woven into the story are the conflicts with the Persian armies and the impact of the Crusades on the city and the Roman world.

From being the largest and greatest city of Europe there was downward decay until it was ripe for picking by the Moslems in the time of the 6th Trumpet. It had been plundered by the Crusaders, who “had not just failed to take Jerusalem, they had wrecked Christendom’s biggest city, and destroyed a European bulwark against Islam” (p357). Fidler describes how the Moslems finally brought their bronze cannons to bear against the walls of Constantinople as “fire, smoke and brimstone” breached the walls. Its defeat was inevitable, not just from a human view-point, as Fidler concludes, but because Christ had declared it.

A few caveats. While written for mid-teens and up-ward, the language is coarse and unpleasant in places. Also, as Fidler is describing base human behaviour, there is some detail of ungodly actions which most readers will find detracts from the reading. The chapter on “The Children of Ishmael” commences with Richard Fidler’s atheistic ideas against a God. Most young people will probably find this a challenge rather than swallowing his argument. Nevertheless, parents may well want to consider if this is good reading for younger people.

While there are much longer and more scholarly works available, this is a readable history of Constantinople which provides some background to key events outlined in the book of Revelation.

Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler was published in 2016 by Harper-Collins, Sydney and is available online or from large retail booksellers.