Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 4 – The Conquest of Evil
by Gerald R. Thompson
The kingdom of Christ is what everything is about. Jesus, the Bible, God’s will, man’s purpose, the universe – the meaning of everything is tied to the coming kingdom. So it makes sense that we should take care to find out everything we can about the nature of that kingdom.
Dan. 2:31-45 (summary) – Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, has a dream of a statue having a head of gold, chest of silver, a mid-section of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. A stone, uncut by human hands, strikes the feet (breaking them), then the whole statue crumbles to dust, and the stone becomes a mountain filling the whole earth. Daniel then interprets the dream, which is discussed below.
Rev. 17:3, 7-14 (summary) – This vision takes place in a wilderness, where a woman is sitting on a scarlet beast full of blasphemous names having seven heads and ten horns. The beast “was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction,” which causes unbelievers to marvel at it. The seven heads are said to be seven mountains, and also seven kings, “five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.” Then the beast is said to be an eighth (mountain/king) and that it also belongs to the seven, and goes to destruction. The ten horns are said to be ten future kings who receive authority “for one hour” together with the beast. The ten kings are of one mind and hand their authority over to the beast, who will make war on the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them.
We have seen how history has been, and will be, a long continuous battle between God and Satan, eventually to be slugged out at Armageddon between Jesus and the Antichrist – although that is not the final end. We have shown how this conflict is a battle between two kingdoms, each of which has certain nations aligned with it. Now we will examine the kingdom of Satan as it prepares for Armageddon in more detail. This kingdom has key personalities (the Satanic trinity) which we will look at later. First, we will consider the multi-nation confederacy that will take the lead in waging war for Satan, represented in the Bible as a beast kingdom.
There are four beasts described in Revelation, one of which is unlike the others (Rev. 13:11-18), which we will examine under the heading of the False Prophet. So let us set that one aside for now. The other three beasts are as follows:
1) a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and a crown on each head (Rev. 12:3);
2) a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, a crown on each horn, and blasphemous names on its heads (Rev. 13:1); and
3) a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns (Rev. 17:3).
The first thing to realize is these are all the same beast, viewed from different angles, not to confuse us, but to present a complete picture of what God wants us to know. The congruences are too striking to refer to different subjects.
All the beasts have in common seven heads and ten horns, which is intended to give us an overview of the kingdom of Satan – looking both to the past and to the future. The crowns on the heads and the horns indicate that each of these represents a nation or empire. The color red and the blasphemous names tell us the character of the beast, which is murderous and hateful of God.
Rev. 12, by calling the beast a dragon, a symbol associated with the devil, focuses on the Satanic nature of this kingdom. Rev. 13 focuses on the human leader of the beast, the one who rises from the sea. Rev. 17 describes the beast in terms of an international confederacy that the Antichrist leads. This is where we will start, because ch. 17 tells us who/what the beast is.
Rev. 17 is an overview of a great drama played out by three main players: the beast, the great harlot, and the kings of the earth. All three players are corrupt and destined for destruction. In short, the kings of the earth will commit immorality with the harlot, the beast will destroy the harlot, the kings of the earth will weep and mourn and suffer, and the beast will be destroyed by Christ.
The great harlot is a city of commerce, made rich from “filthy lucre,” or ill-gotten gain, which the nations will freely engage in trade with. The beast is a confederation of nations that will destroy the city of commerce and wage war against the chosen people of God. The kings of the earth represent other nations not part of the confederation.
Now let’s look at the nature of the beast more closely. We know from v. 3 that the beast is scarlet, is full of blasphemous names, and has seven heads and ten horns. Verse 8 tells us that the beast was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit (or the abyss), i.e., it is dark and evil and under the control of the one who is king of the abyss, namely Satan.
Verses 9-14 tell us that the seven heads are seven mountains (governments, or empires; See Dan. 2:45) or kings – five of whom have fallen (no longer in existence), one exists at that time, and the one who is to come for a short time is a future kingdom. The beast is also an eighth king, and one of the seven.
The ten horns are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, who receive authority for “one hour,” and who give their power and authority to the beast to destroy the great harlot and wage war against the Lamb (Jesus).
What we have here is a historical overview of the beast in the timeline of world history, juxtaposed with a description of what the final version of the Satanic kingdom will look like when it arrives. In other words, we have two views of the beast presented together: 1) how the kingdom of Satan fits in with known empires in the history of the world; and 2) what the final empire will look like to those who are alive at the time.
The precedent for the historical description is Dan. 2:31-45, Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a statue representing successive kingdoms in world history. The statue had five sections or layers, from top to bottom: head of gold (Babylon), chest of silver (Medo-Persia), mid-section of bronze (Greece), legs of iron (possibly Rome or a later kingdom), and feet of iron mixed with clay (final kingdom).
We know the head of gold represents Babylon because Daniel himself asserts it in Dan. 2:38. Babylon was immediately followed by the empires of Medo-Persia and Greece, universally acknowledged by commentators as the silver and bronze layers. When we get to the legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay, that’s where opinions diverge.
Part of the split in opinion is based on whether one counts the statue as having four layers, or five. That is due primarily to Dan. 2:40-41, which seems to use the word it as a single pronoun referring to both the iron and iron mixed with clay layers of the statue as the fourth kingdom.
Thus, some commentators see the iron legs as Rome and the feet as the Revived Roman Empire come back to life. Others see the iron legs as Rome and the feet referring to the final kingdom which is not Rome. Still others consider the iron legs to refer to a kingdom after Rome and the feet of iron and clay to be a revival of this other empire. In this last view, no part of the statue refers to Rome at all.
However fascinating this mystery may be, it is not necessary for us to resolve it to understand what God’s plan is. We will have plenty of opportunity to consider the historical references to past kingdoms as we progress through this discussion.
In any event, the significance of the dream is this: all these world empires have opposed God. The fact that they are all part of one statue, and not separate statues, indicates they are all merely different stages of the kingdom of Satan. There is a progression here, which in any scenario culminates in a final kingdom which is yet future. Identifying it will require us to look at other scriptures.
But the progression itself is regressive. That is, the kingdoms degrade, or decline, with respect to each other over time. It is a variation of the law of entropy applied to world empires. The law of entropy (the 2nd law of thermodynamics) means that all things lose energy/ order/ information over time. In other words, all physical things degrade. Well, here we have a vision of a statue representing succeeding kingdoms which degrade as time goes by.
However, I suggest this is not really a natural process. From God’s point of view, each of these kingdoms degrades morally compared to its predecessors. From Satan’s perspective, each successive kingdom is growing more wicked, which means he is perfecting over time the implementation of an evil empire. Thus, the last kingdom will be worst – the most evil. Keep that in mind as we go along.
The vision ends with a stone originating not with man, but by implication with God, destroying the whole statue and then itself becoming a mountain filling the whole earth. The stone is Christ, who will defeat the final world empire of Satan, and thereby destroy the whole history (or legacy) of the kingdom of Satan represented by all the prior kingdoms. Christ will then establish a worldwide kingdom (represented as a mountain) in their place which will last forever. That is the point of the vision, and we got there without having to identify the legs or the feet of the statue.
When we compare Dan. 2 with Rev. 17, we see the historical backdrop has been expanded to seven kingdoms (seven heads/ mountains/ kings), and we are specifically told there is an eighth which is also one of the seven. So, to the five kingdoms of Dan. 2, Rev. 17 adds the kingdoms of Egypt and Assyria which preceded Babylon, and one additional kingdom yet in the future from the perspective of the first century A.D.
From God’s perspective, these are the only kingdoms that count for prophetic purposes because these are the ones with which God’s chosen people had direct interaction – captivity, slavery, deportation, tyrannical rule, persecution, etc. Why we are not concerned with other world empires is explained shortly.
If we look at these kingdoms at the time Rev. 17 was written, five had fallen (in order: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece) and one was contemporary with the writer John (i.e., “now is”), meaning Rome. Neither the seventh nor the final kingdom had yet come in John’s time.
But the fact that the eighth kingdom is also one of the seven, tells us that one of the fallen kingdoms will come back into world dominance in the end times. This is the meaning of the kingdom that “was and is not, and is about to come.” Not from John’s perspective (i.e., only one of the first five kingdoms), but from the perspective of the end times (any one of the seven kingdoms), this kingdom or empire used to exist and was destroyed, but will arise again. This will be unprecedented in history, catch everyone by surprise, and amaze the world.
Remember – the purpose of the vision of Rev. 17 is to give us a historical overview of the beast in the timeline of world history, juxtaposed with a description of what the final version of the Satanic kingdom will look like when it arrives. So our task at this point is twofold: 1) fully identify all the players (which means identifying the seventh kingdom); and then 2) identify to the extent possible what the final version of Satan’s kingdom will look like (i.e., identifying the eighth kingdom).
We know the first six kingdoms of Rev. 17 were Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. When it comes to identifying the seventh kingdom of Rev. 17:9-10, we have three principal clues:
1) it will be religiously connected to the prior six kingdoms, because the great harlot (a symbol representing the anti-Jehovah religion of Satan) sits on all seven kingdoms;
2) it will arise after Revelation was written (about A.D. 95-96), but before the end times; and
3) it will remain only a little while.
The likelihood that the seventh kingdom has already arisen by the present day is very great.
Because of the “Israel and Jerusalem are the center of the world” perspective of biblical prophecy, there are a great many kingdoms and empires in world history we simply don’t care about prophetically. For example, we don’t care about African empires other than Egypt. Nor Asian empires beyond the Middle East, such as India, China, Japan, Mongolia, or Russia. Nor any European empires apart from Greece and Rome, such as the Dutch, Spanish, French, German, or British empires.
Prophetically, we only care about Middle East empires or empires whose dominions included the land of Israel and Jerusalem and which arose after the Roman empire. Thus, we don’t care about the Hittite empire, which was before Christ. What we are looking for is a post-Roman empire which controlled Jerusalem and most or all of the land of Israel, and which may have had a significant connection with the Jewish people. Although, because Israel would have been dispersed as a nation when the seventh empire arose, the connection to the Jewish people may have been slight.
Fortunately, that whittles down the available options to two: the Muslim Caliphate of Mohammed and his immediate successors in the 7th and 8th centuries, and the Ottoman empire which fell in 1924. Both empires were essentially Muslim driven, and both were Caliphates. The Ottoman Empire was headquartered in Turkey. The original Caliphate under Mohammed was headquartered in Arabia (Saudi Arabia – Mecca).
My main concern is based on Rev. 17:10, which says that the 7th empire will “remain only a little while.” The original Caliphate started by Mohammed and his immediate successors (the Rashidun Caliphate) lasted only from 622 until 661 A.D. It covered all of Arabia, northern Libya and Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. It was extended from 661 through 750 (the Umayyad Caliphate) to include Spain, Portugal, the rest of North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan and a few of the other “Stans.”
The Ottoman empire did not go as far east or west as the prior Caliphate, but included all of Turkey, Greece, and some of the Balkans. When the Ottoman empire began is a matter of some dispute among historians – some say 1299, some say 1453 (the conquest of Constantinople, formerly Byzantium, and now Istanbul), and others put it at 1517. Regardless, the duration of the Ottoman empire, somewhere between 407 and 625 years long, is hardly a short while.
Just for comparison with other prophetically significant world empires, northern Israel was deported to Assyria in 722 B.C., the southern tribe deported to Babylon in 586 B.C., and before 516 B.C. Israel was sent back home by the Medo-Persian empire. Greece took over the world around 334 B.C., and by 64 B.C. Rome was in power. Egypt lasted longer than any of these, but the average duration of an empire was only a couple hundred years.
Thus, it is hard to see how the Ottoman empire, lasting 407-625 years, can be regarded as lasting only a short while. The Rashidun Caliphate, on the other hand, lasted only 40 years, and covered all of the necessary territory to fulfill prophetic expectations. In the end, I don’t know that it matters. I’m not going to stake my life on one Caliphate versus the other. They are both Muslim caliphates, they both covered Israel and most of the Middle East, and they both came after Rome. So, we have a pretty good idea what to look for if either of them revives in the future.
Much ink has been spilled over identifying the final kingdom, most of it erroneously directed at naming a Revived Roman Empire, which will supposedly rear its ugly head once more and be the engine of the Antichrist to persecute the saints. Thus, much focus in past decades has been on Europe, and the European Community as the final kingdom.
This is what we know about what the final kingdom will look like:
1) it will be one of the prior seven kingdoms or empires;
2) it will consist of ten nations who will join together in a confederacy;
3) the ten nation confederacy will be led by the Antichrist;
4) the confederacy will make war against the people of God; and
5) the confederacy will destroy a great commercial city identified with an anti-Jehovah religion.
Most likely, the identification of the Revived Roman Empire with the papacy, the Vatican and Roman Catholicism, was historically born out of Protestant animosity. Much effort has been put into either identifying Rome as the beast because it is a city supposedly set on seven hills, or mountains, or looking for another city set on seven mountains.
But the Bible never says the beast is a city, nor that it is a city set on seven mountains. The great harlot is a city – not the beast. What Rev. 17 says about the beast is that it consists of seven kingdoms or empires, which are each characterized as mountains metaphorically, not geographically.
I can find nothing in the Bible suggesting that Rome will be the kingdom which comes back. Nowhere in the Bible does God concern himself prophetically with Europe (that is, by pronouncing judgment against it). The book of Daniel refers several times to the kingdoms of Greece and Rome by inference (that is, metaphorically as layers of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream statue), but never pronounces judgment against them by name. They are simply lumped in with the various empires whose legacy will be conquered and erased by Christ.
Greece is mentioned by name only 5 times in the Bible, none of which are judgmental. Rome is mentioned by name only 9 times in the Bible – all of which are merely location references (“so-and-so went to Rome”).
Nothing in the history of Europe suggests, while the Church is certainly in decline there, that Europeans want to kill or persecute all the Christians or Jews, attack Jerusalem or destroy Israel. To the contrary, the history of Europe is one in which its people waged wars to protect Jerusalem (i.e., the Crusades). Nothing suggests Europeans want to destroy the commercial centers of the world (remember, the beast will destroy the great harlot, a commercial city).
Not only are there more than ten members of the European Community, but the various countries hardly want to give their power to a single leader – far from it. If anything, European nations are pulling back from unification, as Europe is on the brink of falling apart (not on the rise as a world power). Further, while they have their faults, Europeans are hardly hell-bent on waging war against Jews or Christians when compared to other parts of the world.
Muslims, on the other hand, expressly hate and want to kill all Christians and Jews as infidels, want to destroy Jerusalem and eradicate Israel, have repeatedly attacked commercial centers of the world (especially New York City), and are openly hailing the coming of the 12th Imam or Al Mahdi (the Muslim Messiah), who will lead a Muslim international confederation of nations known as a caliphate.
The Caliphate will have two main objectives: conquer the world, and impose Shariah law. In fact, many Muslims now openly admit they are doing everything they can to hasten the formation of a Caliphate, or Khilafah. Go to www.khilafah.com and read all about the United States of Islam.
If a Muslim Caliphate is formed, will the nations give their authority to a single ruler to exercise on their behalf? Well, that’s what the Mahdi is – the ruler of the caliphate on behalf of all Islam. And not coincidentally, the Mahdi will, by Islamic self-description, embody all of the characteristics, goals and methods of the Antichrist as described on the Bible. So the likelihood of a Muslim Caliphate being the final kingdom of Rev. 17 is very good.
I could spend a lot of time speculating about where the Caliphate will be headquartered (where its capital will be), but frankly, I don’t think it important. Does it matter which Muslim kingdom will arise again: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Arabian, or Ottoman? The activities of the caliphate and the nations which decide to become members are what’s important. And we know what to look for so we will be able to recognize it when it appears. That’s probably enough. Although, it is not likely to be Egypt, which will be conquered by the Antichrist. Dan. 11:43.
Considering the evidence so far, let’s ask a question. As between a Revived Roman Empire and a revived Islamic Caliphate, which of them:
1) is more likely to be one of the prior seven kingdoms or empires? Rome – 1 chance in 7. Islam – 5/7 chance (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Arabian or Ottoman)
2) is actively moving towards setting up a multinational confederacy held together by a common religion?
3) is actively moving towards setting up a multinational confederacy to be lead by a single leader?
4) is more likely to make war against the people of God (Jews and Christians)?
5) is more likely to act to destroy a large city of world commerce?
6) has a record of murderous persecutions?
7) is on record as being hateful of Jehovah God?
8) has a Messiah which matches the biblical description of the Antichrist, and views the Christian Messiah as their embodiment of Satan?
Numerous commentaries identify the Antichrist kingdom with apostate religion, which is often further identified as apostate Christians. Look, I know God will judge the Church (1Pe 4:17), but in the big picture, the grand historic battle between God and Satan is simply not going to be waged against backsliding or false Christians. The stakes are much higher than that. There are worse evils than people who call themselves Christians but aren’t. Much worse.
Rev. 17:1-6, 15-18 (summary) – This text gives us these clues about the great harlot:
1) the dwellers of earth have become drunk with her wine;
2) she sits on the beast in a wilderness;
3) she is also said to be sitting on many waters, i.e., peoples, nations and languages;
4) she wears purple and scarlet clothes, and is adorned with gold, jewels and pearls;
5) she holds a gold cup of her abominations and impurities;
6) she is drunk with the blood of the saints martyred for Jesus;
7) she is hated by the beast, which will make her desolate and burn her with fire;
8) she is a great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth; and
9) she has written on her forehead, “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations”
Rev. 18:1-24 (summary) – This text is a continuation of this same vision about the downfall of Babylon the Great:
10) she is a dwelling place for demons and every kind of unclean animal;
11) merchants of the world have grown rich selling things to her;
12) she traffics in human slavery;
13) her destruction will come in a single day;
14) the smoke of her burning will be visible from the sea; and
15) in her will be found the blood of prophets, saints, and all who have been slain on earth.
Here we will examine the remaining portions of Rev. 17 & 18 as they pertain to the great harlot. As already stated, the kings of the earth will commit immorality with the harlot, the beast will destroy the harlot, and the kings of the earth will weep and mourn after her. The great harlot is a worldwide city of commerce, made rich from ill-gotten gain from the nations of the earth.
Now let’s unlock the vision. The symbolism of the harlot is false religion – not just error (like some cult), but the greatest false religion in the world promoted by Satan. The biblical term “mother of prostitutes” undoubtedly means that the harlot has spawned many false religion offshoots, but the modern vernacular also applies – as in “the mother of all false religions,” being the biggest and the baddest false religion of them all.
This false religion plays host to demons and is full of uncleanness. “Abominations” suggests this false religion hates Jehovah God, and this is confirmed by the fact that it murders the saints of God. This anti-Jehovah religion is influential with many kings, or leaders of nations. It has deluded many people worldwide (i.e., made them drunk). This anti-Jehovah religion controls much worldwide commerce, consuming many goods, displaying great wealth outwardly, and is associated with Babylon. What religion could this possibly be?
But we have other clues. The harlot “sits” on many waters at the same time it “sits” on the beast. The harlot and the beast are both seen in a wilderness, most often associated in prophecy with Arabia. Interestingly, Arabia is surrounded by many waters. Arabia has oil wells which, if attacked, would burn and the smoke would rise and be visible from the sea. Arabia displays great wealth outwardly, traffics in human slavery, and is a major center of commerce.
But most importantly, Mystery Babylon is both a false religion and a city. And Arabia has a city which, in addition to meeting the commercial specifications of Revelation, is also home to the religious center of one of the world’s largest religions, Islam. Yes, I’m talking about Mecca.
Keep in mind that as we look at candidates for Mystery Babylon, there are many cities which have international influence, engage in illicit trade and commerce, traffic in human slavery, are places of great wickedness, and are either seaports or are close to an ocean. But how many of them are actually the seat of a major world religion, connected with one of the seven historic world empires, and are also located in a desert wilderness?
If you’re wondering, Rome is about 55 miles from the sea, and Mecca is about 40 miles inland. But only one of them is surrounded by desert. Besides, as between the two, which has more influence commercially and politically now? Which one has the blood of the saints on its hands – recently? Granted, historical Rome might be a tempting candidate for Mystery Babylon, but in the present world it isn’t even a close second place.
Rev. 17:16 says the beast will hate the harlot and burn her with fire. If the beast is an Islamic caliphate, and the harlot is a city which is the spiritual heart of Islam, why would the caliphate attack Mecca? Of course, the question is the same if you are talking about a European confederacy attacking and destroying Rome. The immediate reasons won’t be apparent until it happens.
The simple answer is that God will put it in the minds of the leaders of the confederacy to do this.
And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. Rev. 17:16-17.
There are some further observations we can make about a Muslim caliphate and Mecca in this regard. There is a centuries old division between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam. A key Sunni group is the Wahhabi sect which is primarily in Saudi Arabia, where Mecca is located. A key Shiite group is the Twelvers sect (the ones who are devoted to promoting the arrival of the 12th Imam, or Al-Mahdi), who tend to be concentrated in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan.
The two groups don’t get along well. They could struggle for control of the caliphate, or they could struggle for control over Islam itself. There is actually a substantial history (which I will not elaborate on) of Muslims attacking and causing disruptions in Mecca, in which Iran has featured prominently, even very recently. Whatever the reasons may turn out to be, it will be God’s plan for it to happen that way.
Even Satan will not be able to prevent a schism among his followers. It goes to the fact that the final empire of Satan is said to be made of iron and clay – which don’t mix. The final kingdom will be unstable because of internal conflicts between two major factions. That’s why the ten horns will receive power along with the beast for only “one hour.” They simply won’t be able to hold the confederacy together long term. They have a brief purpose in God’s plan, and then they’re no longer needed.
It goes back to what Jesus said in Mat. 12:25-26, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” The point being that Satan’s house is divided against itself, and his kingdom will not stand. Only God’s kingdom is undivided. Only God’s kingdom will stand.