The Prophet Daniel was given visions of the future of the nation of Israel, as it was ruled by four "gentile kingdoms". These prophetic scriptures are found in Daniel 2 and 7. History has shown that these empires, in successive order, included the Babylonian Empire (626 BC-539BC), followed by the Medo-Persian Empire (539 BC-330 BC), which was followed by the Greecian Empire (330 BC-63 BC) and then the Roman Empire which was in existence at the time of Christ and remained so for approximately 300 years.
Daniel also saw that the same basic Roman Empire (geographically) would also exist at the time of the Second Coming of Christ, only Daniel saw a different type of government structure in place. In Daniel 2:40, he described the first Roman Empire as being like "iron", and indeed thats exactly how the Roman Empire governed at the time of Christ; they occupied towns and cities and ruled them, forcing the occupied people to obey their every rule and law. In Daniel 2:41, Daniel saw a Roman Empire in existance at the time of the Second Coming, only this version of the Roman Empire would be more like "baked clay and partly of iron" (Daniel 2:41). He elaborated in the next two verses: "...so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay."
Daniel saw an end times Roman Empire which would grow (Daniel 7:23) and ultimately give birth to a figure known as the Antichrist (Daniel 9:26-27). Daniel 7:19-23 and Revelation 17 give a full description of how this "revived" Roman Empire will grow into a world empire, which also rules over Israel.
Prophecy scholars who take a literal view of prophetic scriptures, particularly John Walvoord and Dwight Pentecost, and later Hal Lindsey have all been predicting, since the 1960's, that we'd see a peaceful union of European States form, which would later grow into a union of countries which would look like the Roman Empire which existed over 1,700 years ago. Such predictions were based on a literal view of the passages above. When this concept was introduced, not long after World War II, it was considered ridiculous - just the idea of a union including countries such as France and Germany was unthinkable. As a result, these literal authors faced ridicule, but they stood firm and continued writing and teaching prophecy in a literal way, based on how prophetic fulfillment has been recorded throughout history.
We watched as the European Union (EU) gathered strength while it grew into a collection of 27 countries, representing well over 500 million people. We also watched as their partner group, the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) joined the union through a staggering array of policies which united each member state with the EU. By combining the map of the EU and the ENP, one can easily see how it is almost identical with maps of the first Roman Empire, which existed at the time of Christ. Additionally, unlike the "original" Roman Empire, which was described in Daniel 2 as "iron", the revival of the Roman Empire, as expected at the time of the Second Coming, is described by Daniel as a "mixture" - something like a confederation described as "iron and clay" - a mixture that is difficult to unite.
Just this week, we have now witnessed a formalized union combining the EU and these Mediterranean countries, now totaling 43 countries and over 750 million people - in the form of a Mediterranean Union which looks exactly like what Daniel predicted. The countries surrounding the southern Mediterranean are predominately Muslim, and the traditional EU countries are predominately Roman Catholic. Iron and clay indeed; just like Daniel's description.
Joel Rosenberg has a fascinating commentary on this union, including pertinent maps.
We inch closer day by day to the tribulation period described in the book of Revelation, chapters 6-19. The same literal scholars who have been amazingly accurate for the last 50-60 years, based on a literal view of biblical prophecy, also point to a Rapture of the Church, or the "catching up" as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-52, which we believe will occur prior to this tribulation period. This is the hope and encouragement that was given by the apostle Paul in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, as we face a seemingly ominous world. The beginning of the tribulation period is coming into focus. Revelation 17 tells us that once this revived Roman Empire is formed, it wouldn't last long. The Second Coming of Christ will end this last human empire. Daniel 2:44-45 and 7:26-27 inform us that this last empire, the "revived" Roman Empire will end at the time of Christ's return.
We see the signs every day - warning us that the Tribulation is approaching.
As they say around Thanksgiving: "When you start seeing Christmas decorations, you know that Thanksgiving is near."
We can say the same about the Rapture of the Church: "When you see the signs of the Tribulation, you know the Rapture is near."
Maranatha! Our Lord Come!