by David C. Grabbe
The recent news out of Europe shows the issue of Muslim immigration quickly approaching a flashpoint. Europe has long been known for its loose immigration policy. Its endorsement of and wholehearted agreement with pluralism and multiculturalism have resulted in a massive influx of immigrants, both legal and illegal, and a significant percentage of those immigrants are from predominantly Muslim countries. European governments have been pleased with this for the most part, because of the cheap labor and because the native population of Europe has such a low birthrate that the only reason the population is increasing at all is because of immigration—in some areas, the birth rate of immigrants is three times the rate of the native population.
These factors have set the stage for a cultural conflict that could lead to radical changes within the fabric of Europe. This not only has prophetic implications, but it also serves as an excellent object lesson for those seeking to enter the Kingdom of God.
Even though ethnic and religious tension has been building for some in Europe, it finally reached a bursting point the same week that President Bush was re-elected. A Dutch filmmaker and critic of Islam named Theo van Gogh, a descendant of the painter Vincent van Gogh, was shot while riding his bicycle in Amsterdam. The bullets did not kill him, so his attacker pulled out a long knife and slit his throat. The murderer then pinned a lengthy letter, written in Dutch and Arabic, to van Gogh's chest with the bloody knife. He then sunk in a second knife, apparently in accordance with a common practice in North Africa. The killer, the son of a Moroccan immigrant, had converted to radical Islam shortly after September 11, 2001.
Theo van Gogh was singled out because he made a short film, Submission, which unveiled the abuse of women in Muslim countries. This is not meant to paint him as a hero, because he also regarded Christianity and Judaism to be simply "barbaric superstition." But this event struck a chord for the Dutch especially because, as commentator Daniel Johnson, writing in The London Daily Telegraph, put it, "the murder of an artist for the sake of his art shocks secular Europe [much] as martyrdom shocked Christendom. Theo van Gogh is a secular martyr."
Jumping on the Bandwagon
The Netherlands has long been known as one of the most tolerant places on earth. But with the prospect of a renewed Muslim caliphate ("the era of Islam's ascendancy from the death of Mohammed until the 13th century") at hand, even the most tolerant people on earth cannot abide militant Islam. The Dutch government has declared war on radical Islam, the prime minister promising a relentless crackdown on extremist cells. The immigration minister has unveiled plans for a law allowing the deportation of Islamic radicals—even if they are Dutch citizens! Meanwhile, some of the "more civilized" Dutch citizens have taken to burning mosques, acts which have resulted in reprisal burnings and vandalism of Christian churches. One of the most liberal societies in the world has discovered something it will not accept.
The Netherlands is not alone in its fight. Other European nations are also considering their positions as a result of decades of unchecked immigration and poor societal integration. Senior German politicians are saying that Muslims will have to integrate themselves better if they wish to remain in the country. Leaders of various conservative parties have been calling on citizens to emphasize patriotism and Christian values. Some are calling for a renewed German "leading culture," which would include common language, values, and laws. The Bavarian Interior Minister, Günther Beckstein, has gone so far as to declare that "multiculturalism, as propagated by the red-green [German government] for years, has proven to be illusionary." Those are strange words for a European politician!
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has warned of a "conflict of cultures," saying Muslims "must clearly and without misunderstanding demonstrate that they accept our legal order and democratic rules." He also stated, "A democracy can neither tolerate lawless areas, nor parallel societies" (emphasis ours throughout), and that he will not allow a foreign culture to develop inside the country.
Similar sentiments are being expressed in Denmark. The Danish prime minister said he was determined to root out Islamic extremism: "Let's call the kettle black and admit that there are some young Muslims of immigrant origin who have not understood the principles of democracy, tolerance, and freedom of expression on which Danish society is based."
The major media of Europe are also jumping on the bandwagon. The German news magazine Der Spiegel opined, "The veil of multiculturalism has been lifted, revealing parallel societies where the law of the state does not apply." The Berliner Zeitung, similar to our Washington Post, headlined their story on the current circumstances: "Fear is spreading." And in Holland, the Telegraaf, much like our New York Times, wrote: ". . . magazines and papers which include incitements should be suppressed, unsuitable mosques should be shut down, and imams who encourage illegal acts should be thrown out of the country."
Europe's multiculturalism appears to be catching up with it! This has a number of prophetic implications. For one, this provides a cultural application of the King of the South—which we have interpreted to be Arabic—pushing at the King of the North—generally the remnant of the Roman Empire (see "Clash of Cultures," Forerunner, November 2002). The "pushing" is not military in nature right now, but it is a push through immigration, by promoting a culture and a religion that does not easily mix with most of Europe.
A second implication is that, sooner or later, Europe will have to decide exactly what it means to be European. Europe is being pushed and stretched by the Muslim onslaught, and many analysts say it is only a matter of time before something breaks loose—probably resulting in more bloodshed. Europe has long operated by the idea that one culture is just as good as the next, that borders do not need to be strictly enforced, and that there is "strength in diversity." What they are experiencing, though, is that not all cultures are equal, and that the Islamic culture does not mix well with traditional European culture.
This presents a problem: How does one define "traditional European culture"? Until the relatively recent adaptation of secular humanism and pluralism, Europe was traditionally Christian. If things continue to heat up, the native population of Europe may reach back to a form of "Christianity" to give definition to what is acceptable and what is not.
Most Europeans do not want the dominant culture of Europe to be Islamic, yet because of immigration and because Muslims are having more children than native Europeans, this seems to be a distinct possibility. It also appears that Europeans are waking up to the fact that a culture dominated by secular humanism is also not ideal, in that the Muslim immigration and integration problem has developed precisely because of the secular humanist idea that all cultures are equal and can get along. The only option left is a return to a nominally Christian culture, if Europeans want something familiar to them.
These factors set the stage for a King of the North to rise and provide native Europeans with a solution to the "pushing" coming from the nations of the south. Given that the pushing has a large Muslim component, a natural solution is a "Christian" revival—led by someone who "has two horns like a lamb" but speaks "like a dragon" (Revelation 13:11). This individual rises after the first Beast (verse 1), convincing the world, with the help of spectacular signs and wonders, to give their allegiance to him (verses 12-17).
Incidentally, the current Pope would probably not be party to such an arrangement. John Paul II is a strong promoter of an open-borders policy. He has repeatedly equated immigration restrictions with abortion, arguing that to refuse to admit a prospective immigrant into a country is as sinful as to kill an unborn child (David Simcox, "The Pope's Visit: Is Mass Immigration a Moral Imperative?" The Social Contract, Winter 1995-96, p. 107).
In the current Catholic hierarchy, permissive immigration is a higher virtue than national identity and patriotism. However, if the flashpoint that causes the first Beast, the King of the North, to attack the King of the South is a cultural pushing through Muslim immigration, advancing an agenda of open borders will not be popular. If this scenario is correct, we should look for a religious leader—a "Lamb Dragon"—who is not an avid fan of Third World immigration.
Prophetic speculation aside, the immigration nightmare in Europe provides an excellent teaching vehicle for explaining the coming Kingdom of God—in some ways, only by contrast.
God's Word tells us that we have already been conveyed, or transferred, into His Kingdom: "[God] has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Colossians 1:13). We understand that we are not in His Kingdom in its fullness because it is not yet established on earth and because flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom (I Corinthians 15:50). We are heirs to it but not yet inheritors. Yet, Colossians 1:13 shows that those who have been redeemed by Christ's blood are already part of His Kingdom.
Likewise, Paul also says that we already have citizenship in the Kingdom of God:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
Our citizenship is where the Kingdom is at this time—in heaven. At Christ's return, the firstfruits will be either resurrected or changed (see I Corinthians 15:51-53), and will rule with Christ in the Kingdom He has established on earth (Revelation 5:10). At that point, we will be in the Kingdom in its entirety.
The analogy of immigration—though not perfect—can help us understand certain elements of the Kingdom of God. We have already been given an application for citizenship in that Kingdom, something we could not request for ourselves (John 6:44), but the government of the Kingdom decides who will be its citizens and tightly controls the immigration process. Ultimately, all mankind will be given the opportunity to emigrate from Satan's domain into the Kingdom of God, but at the start only 144,000 people will successfully complete the application process (Revelation 14:1-5). Unlike Europe, God has not thrown open the door, allowing anyone and everyone to enter at once. Unlike Europe, in God's Kingdom harmony and order will exist precisely because all of the immigration applicants have left behind the culture and ways of their previous nation, having taken on God's ways.
The Place of Law and Deeds
A hotly contested point within Christianity is what part God's law plays in the life of one who has been justified by Christ's sacrifice. The immigration analogy helps here as well. The function of law within a nation is not to grant citizenship, but to guide the behavior of the citizens and define what is acceptable conduct to ensure peace and order. If an American were to travel to Canada and abide by every one of its laws, doing so would not make him a Canadian citizen, for that is not the purpose of Canadian law. Canada's government must still grant the right of citizenship. Nevertheless, abiding by Canadian law would help to ensure that he would get along with Canada's citizens and that he would not merit punishment under its system of justice.
Likewise, keeping the laws of the Kingdom of God will not guarantee full entrance, as that is not the purpose of God's law. God's law provides a guide for conduct and a definition of acceptable behavior toward the goal of living eternally. It is the way that the citizens of His Kingdom should conduct themselves so that same quality of life is possible for everyone.
With human governments, a person does not immigrate based on his good deeds. Immigration officials do not care if he does community service, is kind to his neighbors, or donates to charities. The decision—or not—to grant admission into the nation is entirely the prerogative of the government officials.
Similarly, "immigration" into God's Kingdom is not granted based on works. We cannot buy our way in or convince God that He should let us into His Kingdom because of what good people we are. The decision of who receives an application and who is granted citizenship is entirely His.
Certain actions and behaviors, however, will result in a person being refused entry into a country or being expelled if he has already immigrated. In the Netherlands, politicians are proposing that any person with ties to radical Islam be deported, even if he is already a citizen. Lacking ties to radical Islam will not guarantee that an immigrant can enter the country, but having those ties will ensure his swift expulsion.
There is a parallel with God's Kingdom in this too:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you . . . that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
I Corinthians 6:9-10 includes homosexuals (catamites), sodomites, thieves, coveters, and extortionists in the list of those who will be barred from entering the Kingdom of God. Revelation 21:8 mentions that the cowardly, the unbelieving, and the abominable will not live eternally. Revelation 22:15 adds "whoever loves and practices a lie." Yet, even though these verses list specific sins, they just scratch the surface of defining acceptance or rejection with regard to the Kingdom of God.
No Parallel Cultures
Notice that this list of disqualifiers does not correspond with any one list given in the Old Testament. Some of the Ten Commandments occur here, but not others. Of the four dealing directly with our relationship with God, only the first is given. Does this mean the second, third, and fourth commandments are irrelevant? Certainly not!
Consider also that drunkenness is listed in two different places in the New Testament as behavior that will keep us from the Kingdom (Galatians 5:21; I Corinthians 6:10). Yet, even though there are numerous references to the abuse of alcohol within the Old Testament, within the Old Covenant itself it barely gets a mention. On the other hand, the Sabbath and holy days get tremendous coverage within the Old Covenant, yet these "sin lists" in the New Testament do not say that breaking the Sabbath will keep us from the Kingdom. Why are some sins listed and not others?
Again, what is happening in Europe provides an example. German politicians especially are warning about "parallel societies," "parallel cultures," and "lawless areas." They recognize that if two diametrically opposed cultures exist within a state, the only possible outcome will be strife and violence. Yet, they are having difficulty defining exactly what German (or European) culture is and what it is not because of the risk of offending cultures they have insisted are equal. Their definition is hazy, and confusion has resulted.
By contrast, God has already defined His culture for us. He did not see fit to make a checklist of all the things we must avoid to enter His Kingdom, though He has listed a few specifics in verses like these. A broader view shows that He desires citizens in the Kingdom who are already conformed to His culture, His way of doing things. He is seeking heirs in His image—not merely immigrants who have agreed not to, say, dabble in witchcraft, cheat on their wives, or kill anyone. His culture is defined throughout the Bible, which is why Jesus says, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4, see Deuteronomy 8:3).
God will not allow a parallel culture to develop or exist in His Kingdom. He will not allow "lawless areas." The "strength through diversity" movement is destined to fail because a kingdom "divided against itself will not stand" (Matthew 12:25). As heirs of God's eternal Kingdom, our duty is to examine our lives and determine whether our culture—that is, our way of thinking, living, and behaving, which defines us and underlies our achievements—is compatible with what God has revealed in His Word (II Corinthians 13:5), or whether our culture has the potential to create a "parallel society" in the Kingdom of God. If what we would bring with us into the Kingdom does not fit God's culture, He will not grant us entrance and risk the disaster that Europe currently faces.