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The political atmosphere in Britain is getting a little strained lately as the referendum on whether or not Britain should leave the European Union approaches. Judging by the opinion polls it seems that the UK is about evenly split between those who want to remain in the union and those who want to leave, although there have been swings from one view to another depending on how effective the arguments have been from either camp at various stages.

The media have interviewed many undecided voters who complain that politicians do not give them a convincing picture of what life will be like if we leave or stay. Much of the media attention has focussed on the division in the Conservative party, with Prime Minister David Cameron supporting ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ and others, including Boris Johnson, Ian Duncan Smith and Michael Gove, supporting ‘Vote Leave’. The debate is one of the rare situations in which people who are normally political opponents find themselves as allies; for example, the Labour party, including its leader Jeremy Corbyn, is generally on the ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ side.

A lot of the debate focuses on whether the people of Britain will be financially better off if we leave or stay in the European Union, but other factors include fears about immigration levels, national security and the loss of sovereignty that belonging to an organisation of 28 countries involves. The ‘Vote Leave’ side say there are tremendous opportunities for global trade if Britain is not constrained by European regulations; ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ say there are great risks in cutting ourselves off from European trade deals, security co-operation and so on. Both sides accuse each other of using ‘fear tactics’, of ‘scaremongering’ and guessing future outcomes rather than supporting arguments with concrete facts. The lack of facts is the most common complaint heard from undecided voters.

The truth is that nobody knows for certain what will be the result if Britain leaves or stays or, indeed, which side will win the referendum. As one ‘Vote Leave’ campaigner (Boris Johnson) admitted, man cannot prophesy what will happen in the future. Even those of us who turn to what God has revealed in the Bible about the future of nations and believe that Britain has a separate role from Europe prior to the return of Christ (see, for example, Signs of the Times August 2015) do not know every detail of how God will bring about his purpose of replacing the kingdoms of men with the kingdom of God.

A fascinating aspect of modern democracy is how world-changing decisions often result from the narrowest electoral margins. The Middle East might be a rather different place today if George W Bush had not been elected President of the United States in 2000 and gone on to press for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, deposing Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath party supporters. Would, for instance, the self-styled Islamic State have taken control of northern Iraq if Saddam Hussein or his sons were still in power? The 2000 election is famous for being one of the closest in United States history, hinging as did on the narrowest result in the state of Florida (48.85% to 48.84%) after the United States Supreme Court voted to stop further recounts.

Similarly, the current British referendum on Europe would not be taking place if the Conservatives under David Cameron had not confounded predictions of a hung parliament and won an outright narrow majority in the 2015 general election. David Cameron promised the referendum back in 2013 if the Conservatives won the election.
We may well look back on these events as a defining point in European history for, even if Britain votes to remain in the EU, the issues it has raised, such as migration, the failings of the Eurozone economy and national sovereignty are not going to go away. As with all close results, there will be a lot of dissatisfied losers.

Voters in democratic elections and referenda doubtless feel they play an important part in influencing the future of their nation, but the Bible suggests that things are not as simple as they appear and, in fact, it is God who controls who is in power at any one time and easily overrules the will of mankind if it suits his purpose. The book of Daniel, for example, outlines the future of the nations of Europe and the Middle East in some amazing detail and, in chapter 4, gives a very clear example of how God is in control. Here we can read how Nebuchadnezzar (the autocratic king of Babylon from 605 – 562 BC) was warned in a dream that his kingdom was about to be taken away from him so that he and all people could learn this simple fact.
This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.
Daniel 4:17

The chapter goes on to show how Nebuchadnezzar forgot this warning and boasted of his own great power, only to be struck down with insanity and lose control of the kingdom for a period of seven years:
30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?
31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.
32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
Daniel 4:30-32
And so it happened: the chapter concludes with Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity restored and the lesson finally learned. The words that follow from this pagan ruler are some of the most powerful and beautiful in the Bible:
34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:
35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
36 At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.
37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
Daniel 4:34-37

This knowledge, that God is in control and influencing world events until it is time for his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come with power and great glory (Luke 21:27) to set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44) is the reason that Christadelphians do not take part in elections and will not be taking part in this referendum. The very fact that the referendum is taking place as a result of Britain’s uneasy relationship with Europe, seems to support our view that Britain is the Tarshish of Ezekiel 38 who, together with her associate young lions and Saudi Arabia, will question the invasion of Israel by Russia an her allies – allies that appear to include some western European countries.

People with the humility to search and believe the Bible and follow its teaching should have no fear of the referendum outcome, whichever way it goes, for the Bible message is one of truth and hope that transcends all adversity – even the promise of eternal life when the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. Psalm 37:11.

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Page updated Thursday, 16 June, 2016