Events Before the Tribulation: The Empire of the Beast
Our movies are littered with types or pictures of the coming Antichrist and his empire. StarWars has Darth Vader. Toy Story has Lotso the bear. The Chronicles of Narnia has the White Witch and The Lion King has Scar. Even our political arena makes allusions to it. Ronald Reagan galvanized the country by calling the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire.” Our subconscious minds are prepared for what is coming by our culture, but if we aren’t looking in the correct sector of the world we might miss it when the empire of the Beast truly arises.
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matt. 24:4-7 NRSV)
We have been “camped out” on these four verses for the last three posts learning about the events foretold to occur before the tribulation. Author Mark Davidson calls these “signposts” that lead to the unmasking of the Antichrist.
In this post we will show how spiritually deadly the deception will be when Antichrist arrives on the scene. It is essential that the church understands the pre-tribulation prophecies. We will then be able to identify the Antichrist when he comes and resist him. This is one of Jesus’ commands for this period: don’t be deceived. His other command is don’t be troubled. He follows that second command with these words: “for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
God is working all things together for good. This horrible war between the Shia and Sunni Muslims is foretold by God. All the political and economic chaos that will ensue is also foretold. God will hold us in his hand during that period. Knowing God works all things together for good; let us review the final fourth “signpost” of pre-tribulation prophecy with firm resolve and anticipation of the coming of our true king.
Where Will the Antichrist Arise?
We have already overcome the misconception that no major prophetic events will happen before the tribulation or rapture. The church needs to overcome another of the major misconceptions if we are going to see this signpost coming. Now we must overcome the misconception that the Antichrist arises out of a revived Roman Empire. This is one of the most deeply held tenets of the end times. It is almost equivalent to scripture in the minds of many. I am looking at my Bible right now, Daniel chapter 2, and there at the bottom of the page is a picture of Nebuchadnezzar’s metal statute. The legend clearly states that the legs of iron are Rome. I bet all the commentaries in your library say the same thing. How can my NASV be wrong? How can all your commentaries be wrong? Well, only the legend attached to a picture in my NASV is wrong. The Word of God given to Daniel is precisely perfect. It’s the seal God placed on Daniel that has led to this misconception.
Now that Daniel is unsealed, let us look at what scripture really says with fresh eyes.
There are two passages in Daniel in particular that have led historic Christian expositors to believe the Antichrist will arise from a revived Roman Empire. If we are able to prove these passages apply to Islam not Rome, we will have undone the second misconception. Here is the first passage from Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the metal statue.
And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; just as iron crushes and smashes everything, it shall crush and shatter all these. 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 strength of iron shall be in it, as you saw the iron mixed with the clay. As the toes of the feet were part iron and part clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with clay, so will they mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall this kingdom be left to another people. It shall crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.” (Dan. 2:40-45 NRSV)
What About the Revived Roman-Empire Model?
In the second century AD, the bishop Hippolytus, living in the pagan Roman Empire stated that this fourth kingdom had to be Rome. From that moment on over a period of eighteen centuries, Christian teachers and Bible scholars have agreed. Hal Lindsay’s runaway bestseller Late, Great Planet Earth cemented this revived Roman Empire model in the minds of most modern Christians. You may have read the book yourself.
Daniel referred to Nebuchadnezzar himself as the head of gold of the statue. This led all early historic Bible scholars to conclude this passage referred only to historic kingdoms, Babylon being the first. It was also easy to follow history and deduce that Persia was the second kingdom, Greece the third, and Rome the fourth. Since the Roman Empire later was divided into an Eastern Roman Empire (called “Byzantine” only after it fell 1,000 years after the west) and a Western Roman Empire, there were enough similarities to Rome in the passage for expositors to overlook the contradictions. Once the Reformation occurred, Protestant Christians were only too happy to see the Catholic Church based in Rome in all sorts of end-time scenarios. This prejudice continues to this day.
The entire, amazing history of how the theory that the Antichrist will be Roman grew from a supposition to almost equal with the canon of scripture, centered on the interpretation of Daniel 2:40. It can be found here online in Appendix A to Mark Davidson’s book, Daniel Revisited. It is a fascinating read.
The first and most important contradiction that proves that Rome is not the fourth kingdom occurs in Daniel 2:40 where God says through the prophet that the fourth kingdom“shall crush and shatter all of these.” That word for “crush” can also mean “pulverize” which is equal to turning something into a pile of bits that are unrecognizable from the pre-crushed state. By “these” the verse refers to the three earlier kingdoms. The most obvious problem with Rome as the iron empire is that Rome never conquered Persia let alone crushed it.
Islam on the other hand defeated and conquered Babylon, Persia and Greece. Islam did not settle to simply conquer these other kingdoms, but pulverized them by instituting their religion, writing, language, laws and culture on the subdued people. Rome allowed conquered peoples to retain their own cultures. Islam never did, so Islam is a perfect match with this scripture, not Rome.
The second contradiction that Rome is not the fourth kingdom involves the toes of the statue that are partly iron and partly clay—mixed. First, it is extremely interesting to note the Hebrew word for “mixed” is arab. God’s word is always so specific.
Returning to the toes, Bible interpreters have identified these as ten nations. When the European Union expanded to ten nations, champions of the revived Roman Empire model cheered. When it then further expanded to twenty-eight nations, these champions did not revise their model. Nor do they have a suitable explanation for the toes being made of iron and clay. Islam on the other hand has been broken up into many political nations. The Islamic realm is composed of many peoples from Morocco to Pakistan. There are Arabs, Persians and Turkic peoples, not to mention all the political divisions. So the toes and feet are partly strong from being united by a common religion and culture, but partly weak from being politically and ethnically divided.
The third contradiction can be found in Revelation. “And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth.” (Rev. 13:2 NRSV). The beasts imagined here should be very recognizable to everyone who has read the last several posts. The leopard is the four-nation Sunni confederation that has not yet formed. The bear is Iran and the lion is Iraq. This passage shows that the coming beast empire of the Antichrist will incorporate these previous beasts. This does not sound like a European Empire. It sounds like a Middle Eastern Islamic empire to me. The fourth kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue is clearly Islam.
If you are or were a believer in the revived Roman Empire prior to this post, I am sure your mind is racing to Daniel 9:26, the last great hope for that theory. But in that verse is actually the fourth contradiction to the iron empire being Rome.
And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. (Dan. 9:26 NRSV)
This famous passage is from Daniel’s prophecy of the “seventy sevens.” Nearly all Bible scholars identify the “prince who is to come” as the Antichrist. It is a known historic fact that the Roman army under the command of general Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. Believers in the Roman Antichrist theory consider this conclusive evidence they are correct. And so it was believed for almost 2000 years.
Understanding how this particular passage in Daniel was sealed requires knowledge of history and a realization of what “am” means, the word behind the translated word “people.” Not only was the general who oversaw the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70 not Italian, but from the Balkan Peninsula, but his soldiers were not either. The Roman legions at that time were made up of citizens and mercenaries. The Roman citizens from Syria and Egypt populated at least two if not three of the Roman legions that sacked and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. These legions also had auxiliaries of Syrian, Egyptian and Arabian soldiers who did not have citizenship but were promised it.
After breaching the walls of Jerusalem, Titus gave an order that the temple was not to be destroyed. A fire was lit in the temple however by two unnamed soldiers. In the ensuing chaos, more soldiers joined in the melee and the temple was a ruin. You can read all about it in the writings of Josephus.
We need to carefully consider the makeup of the Roman forces at that time. They were Moesian, Celtic, Syrian, Egyptian and Arabian. Which nationalities would have an agenda to destroy the temple against orders (which was highly risky)? Which nationalities might hate the Jews enough to want to pulverize the symbol of the worship of God? Only those from the neighboring countries with a contempt that dated back to Ishmael would have motivation. The verse that was the last great hope of those favoring a revived Roman Empire has been shown to favor Islam. Probably the capstone of all this argument for Islam is what Mohammed says about his god: “Allah is the best of deceivers.” Our Bible states this god is the “Father of Lies” or Satan himself.
There is no biblical support for a Roman Antichrist. We have disproved the second major misconception of the end times!
If the church is made aware that the Antichrist is Islamic and knows what “signposts” to look for, it will be able to identify him and resist him. This is the purpose of the pre-tribulation prophecies. They are not academic arguments. This is where end-time prophecy becomes mainstream. Prophecy = saved souls.
If you have purchased Joel Richardson’s book Mideast Beast , all the data behind the make-up of the Roman legions is contained in chapter 7. I recommend you read this section of Joel’s book if you need clarification. Mark Davidson’s book, Daniel Revisited also discusses this in chapter 2 .
An interesting side note here is that after the fire in 70 AD, the gold that lined the walls of the temple melted. All the remaining stone walls were pulled down to get this gold. This was to fulfill what Jesus told the disciples immediately before the Olivet discourse, “I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down.” Jesus’ prophecy that not one stone would be left upon another is proof that the famous mosque, the Dome of the Rock, is not built on the site of the ancient temple. It is built with part of its foundation being the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall.) If all the stones were torn down this wall cannot be part of the ancient temple. It is thought that the Western Wall is actually part of the ancient Antonio Fortress or Roman garrison headquarters where Jesus was tried on the day of his death. The site of the temple must be elsewhere! This has prophetic significance because the temple must be rebuilt. If it can be rebuilt elsewhere and coexist with the Dome of the Rock, politically this is much easier to accomplish.
What is the Empire of the Beast?
Let us return to studying the empire of the Beast. If we are going to properly identify the Antichrist, we need to know the kingdom he will rule. Four chapters in scripture testify to the formation of this empire: Daniel 2, 7, 8 and Revelation 13. Let’s look at what they say:
The fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. (Dan. 2:40-43 NRSV)
A fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. (Dan. 7:7-8 NRSV)
Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet; and the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows … The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.” (Dan. 7:19-20, 23-25 NRSV)
Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven. And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.” (Dan. 8:8-9 NRSV)
As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power. And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. (Dan. 8:22-24 NRSV)
I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” (Rev. 13:1-4 NRSV)
These verses of scripture are remarkably similar. They all speak of ten horns that shall be ten kings or rulers that will coalesce into a ten-nation empire. Historically, Islam has been ruled by a caliph, part religious leader and part king; and the kingdom was known as a caliphate. These empires existed without interruption from AD 650 to 1924 when the new Turkish Republic, rising from the ashes of the old Ottoman Empire after WWI, officially abolished the caliphate. The Bible shows how it will rise again with ten nations.
What the exact nations might be is pure guesswork at this time, but they should come from the Islamic nations. When the great Sunni Confederacy breaks apart into four nations at the end of the third signpost, those four nations which do not exist today will be part of the ten. Rounding out the ten will most likely be nations like Sudan, Libya, Algeria and central Asian nations. This is assured by scripture. Davidson explains the candidate nations in chapter 12 of his book, Daniel Revisited. Most importantly, we are to also look for the rise of the Antichrist. We must identify him so as not to be deceived as Jesus commands.