In our previous article, we explored the possibility that while we understand that the coming world leader, whom we commonly call "the Antichrist," is predicted to come from the Roman Empire,1 we tend to be myopic regarding the extent of this designation: we tend to equate the Roman Empire with Western Europe, ignoring the eastern leg of this empire, which outlasted the western leg by a thousand years!
If we carefully examine the many references in the Old Testament, we discover a surprising number of allusions to this dominant personage as "the Assyrian."2 This would seem to focus on the region that we know today as Syria and Iraq. With the current world tensions over that very region, it seems quite timely to re-examine some of our perspectives regarding the potential role of that region in the climactic Biblical scenario!
Satan's Seven Empires
The Bible profiles man's history in terms of seven major empires:
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. -Revelation 12:3
These would appear to be Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persian, Greece, and Rome, this last one in two phases: Ancient Rome ("Phase I") and the final re-emergent revival of the Roman Empire ("Phase II").
This perspective derives from a careful study of Daniel 2 and 7, which profiles the "times of the Gentiles" from Babylon until God establishes His own Kingdom, with the Messiah reigning as King of Kings. In both Daniel 2 and 7, we see four major kingdoms: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome-with the fourth one fragmenting, but then ultimately re-emerging in the "last days."
Strangely, the prophecies of Daniel provide a surprising amount of detail concerning both Greece and Rome, with both Chapters 7 and 8 highlighting a "little horn" that emerges among the prominent "10 horns" that will dominate the final scenario.3 This "little horn" - an 11th, in effect - is another designation for the climactic world leader we commonly call "the Antichrist."
When Alexander the Great died, four of his generals divided up the Greek Empire, with Ptolemy in the south and Seleucus in the east taking the largest shares. In fact, the contentions detailed in Daniel 11 chronicle - in advance - the rivalries between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids over the subsequent centuries with such an accuracy that skeptical critics have attempted to "late date" these passages to avoid acknowledging the supernatural aspect of these prophecies.4 [The fact that the Old Testament was translated into Greek (the Septuagint Version) during the early part of this period refutes these attempts.]
It is noteworthy that in both Daniel 8 and 11, prophecies highlighting the final world leader emerge from the passages involving the sequence of the leaders of the Seleucid Empire: the region now known as Syria and Iraq. 5 The seven empires are also the focus of Revelation 17:
And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. - Revelation 17:10
The "five are fallen" would seem to refer to the five kingdoms that had preceded John's day: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The "one is" would seem to be the one existing when John was writing: Rome, in its "first phase." The "other is not yet come" would seem to point to that final world empire that will be taken over by the "11th horn." The following verse also focuses on this final empire:
And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. -Revelation 17:11
It would seem that this final "eighth" empire is one "that was, and is not," and yet is among the list of seven. The only empire among the seven that doesn't exist in some form today is Assyria. It strangely disappeared from history until the sensational discoveries of Henry Layard in 1849.
The Return of Nimrod?
The first world dictator was Nimrod (whose name means "we rebel"), who ruled from Babylon.6 It is interesting that Micah also refers to the "land of Nimrod" in his allusion to the final world empire. Could it be that this final world dictator will be, in some sense, a return of Nimrod? Could it be that there will also be some kind of climactic ellipsis of Satan's kingdoms7 as we approach the final judgment? If so, it is noteworthy that Nimrod ruled from Babylon.
The Mystery of Babylon
This may add an additional dimension to the mysteries surrounding the future of Babylon: Is it just used as a symbol? Or will Babylon literally rise to prominence on the banks of the Euphrates once again?
There are those who regard "Babylon" as simply a rhetorical device, and who interpret the prophetic passages symbolically. There are also those who feel that the "Mystery Babylon" of Revelation refers to the Vatican. 8 However, there are passages in both Isaiah and Jeremiah that clearly describe a destruction of Babylon that has never happened-yet.9 (Many Bible commentaries and helps are in error on this point: one must not confuse the fall of Babylon to the Persians in 539 B.C. with the destruction of Babylon detailed in the Bible. When Cyrus conquered Babylon, he was able to brag to the world that he did it without a battle!)
It is significant to compare the accounts of Babylon's destiny in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Revelation.[See Table]. Contrary to the details emphasized in the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, the building materials of ancient Babylon have been reused; the area has been inhabited over the centuries, contrary to the prophetic passages. We feel that it is quite significant that Saddam Hussein has made significant efforts to rebuild Babylon and has used the rebuilt Nebuchadnezzar's palace for state occasions. It appears that the cataclysmic destruction described by Isaiah and Jeremiah ("like Sodom and Gomorrah") is still in the future.
A strange vision in the Book of Zechariah may hold the key.
Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth. And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth. And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah. And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. - Zechariah 5:5-8
An ephah was a familiar volumetric measure in commercial practice, about a bushel in capacity. The talent of lead was a commercial standard of weight, about 96 Avoirdupois (U.S.) pounds. The woman that was sealed into this container was labeled "wickedness."
Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven. Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah? And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base. - Zechariah 5:10-11
It should be borne in mind that the stork was, in Jewish terms, an unclean bird.10 This vision has "sinister" written all over it! Shinar is the geographic location where Babylon was located. It seems that this woman - wickedness, mother of harlots, etc. - is to be relocated to where it all began.
All idolatry and paganism had its roots at Bab-El, which became Babylon. The pagan priesthood and its attendant rites then followed the political power structures of each succeeding empire until it ultimately settled in Rome. Thus, the various false gods they worshiped followed in various forms: Ishtar and Tammuz of Babylon became Isis and Osiris in Egypt, Aphrodite and Zeus in Greece, Venus and Jupiter in Rome, and Ashtoreth and Baal in Chaldea. Zechariah's vision seems to indicate that this pagan centroid of power will migrate back to where it all started to receive its final judgment.
There are those who also suspect that the final world leader will be an apparent "reincarnation" of a prominent leader of the past. Nero was a common suggestion. Others even believe it could be Judas reincarnated.11 ("Reincarnation" has been a traditional lie of Satan, echoing his lie at Eden: "Ye shall not surely die."12 Reincarnation is clearly refuted in Scripture,13 although Satan may stage a counterfeit.) But there are other possibilities as well. What about cloning from a protein sample of the past? Is it possible that this "eighth" is "of the seven" in microbiological sense? Also, remember the strange hint that Jesus gave us:
But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. -Matthew 24:37; Luke 17:26
In order to appreciate this allusion, it is essential to understand what the "days of Noah" were like, including the strange mischief caused by the fallen angels. It has been suggested that this coming leader may be a Nephilim, a recurrence of events in Genesis 6 that brought the previous cataclysmic judgment of the flood upon the earth.
With the current world turmoil surrounding Iraq and the Middle East, it is likely that the coming months and years will bring some striking changes. It is essential that we stand back from our presumptions and prejudices and listen carefully to what the Biblical text is telling us. We are living in exciting times, but we need to be diligent in our study of God's Word. The only certain barrier to truth is the presumption that we already have it.
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This article was excerpted from our currently featured briefing pack, AntiChrist - The Alternate Ending.