Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 4 – The Conquest of Evil
by Gerald R. Thompson
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.
The Historical Context
We have seen how history has been, and will be, a long continuous battle between God and Satan. Eventually it will 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 similarities 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). In other words, the beast is dark, 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, empires, or kings). See Dan. 2:45. Of the seven, five have fallen (are no longer in existence), one exists at the time the book of Revelation is written, and the one who is to come for a short time is a future kingdom. The beast kingdom is both an eighth king, and one of the seven. This is very important.
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 kingdom in the timeline of world history. This is 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 says so 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. “And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay.”
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. I will, however, make one assumption as we continue to examine Rev. 17. Namely, that Daniel’s vision, since it has five layers, relates to five kingdoms, not four. Whether the fourth and fifth kingdoms are the same kingdom repeated (i.e., come back into power) is a possibility I will leave open.
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 in time is regressive in quality. 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. In other words, governmental or societal entropy.
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. A total of eight kingdoms. Seven different kingdoms, but one which repeats, for a total of eight.
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). Of the seven kingdoms or empires, one that used to exist was destroyed and 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).
If you have ever read a commentary or explanation of Rev. 17, chances are that you have come across this interpretation, which is probably the most prevalent view: Rome is the sixth kingdom, and the final kingdom (the seventh kingdom) is a Revived Roman Empire. Sometimes this interpretation is based on a “seven hills of Rome” idea that has no basis in John’s vision. But the view I have just described only accounts for seven kingdoms. The problem is that even though the beast has seven heads, the whole point of the vision is that there are in fact eight kingdoms to be accounted for. One of the seven heads comes back, not one of the six.
In other words, there are seven kingdoms in world history of particular interest, all of which pass away. But one of those seven comes back into world prominence unexpectedly – which is unexpected largely because none of the other historical empires ever came back. So it does no good to postulate an interpretation which identifies only six kingdoms, and has one of those come back. The whole interpretation is missing an entire kingdom. It does not account for all of the data. Therefore, it cannot be correct.
The Missing Kingdom (7th Empire)
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 (first century A.D.), 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.
The Coming Caliphate (Final Empire)
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 eventually be led by the Antichrist (but not right away);
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.
The identification of the Revived Roman Empire with the papacy, the Vatican and Roman Catholicism, was historically born out of Protestant Reformation 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”) in the New Testament. There simply are no biblical prophecies against 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).
Yes, I am aware that anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide, particularly in Europe. Much of which is undoubtedly attributable to the extensive migration of Muslims to Europe in recent years. But what I’m really talking about is a matter of degree. Of all the people in the world, who hates Jews more – Europeans generally, or Muslims generally? But really, to be more pointed, who hates Jews more – the Papacy, or Muslims? It is no contest. It ain’t Rome, folks.
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). Take Brexit (Great Britain leaving the European Community), for example. My point is made. 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, and want to destroy Jerusalem and eradicate Israel. Muslim terrorists 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 building a global movement for an Islamic Caliphate.
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.
* Ver. 8.0. Copyright © 2013-2020 Gerald R. Thompson. All rights reserved. Used by permission. All Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version.