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END TIME PROPHECY: IDENTIFYING THE FOURTH EMPIRE, OR “BEAST,” OF THE BOOK OF DANIEL
Let us review how Scripture attempts to show in some detail, through four successive empires, or “beasts,” certain empires of men have, with the assistance of Satan, methodically expanded in size and power over the centuries . Through successive conquests and subsequent absorptions of the various populations to the point where, as the final empire, an empire which will be led by its king, the Antichrist, the fourth empire will attempt to conquer the whole earth through deception, war and the annihilation of the Church of Jesus Christ. This attempt, however, will be thwarted by Jesus Christ Himself at His Second Coming, but not before the fourth empire, which will by then have become “The Kingdom of Antichrist,” will attempt to do battle with the Lamb and His Heavenly host at Armageddon. There the fourth empire, or the Kingdom of Antichrist, will be defeated by “the Rock [Jesus Christ] cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands” (Daniel 2:44). As a result of His victory at Armageddon, “the God of Heaven will set up a Kingdom that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44).
For the sake of clarity, let us take brief look at this progression of empires: We know through the science of archaeology that the last great Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, died in 627 B.C. His Assyrian successors were no match for Nabopolssar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, who founded the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 626 B.C. In 612 B.C. the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, would fall to a coalition of Medes and Babylonians led by King Nabopolssar of Babylon. The entire Assyrian Empire, as a result, would eventually be absorbed into the Neo-Babylonian Empire. In 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, a gifted Babylonian general would succeed his father, King Nabopolssar, to the Babylonian throne. In the same year King Nebuchadnezzar would crush the Egyptian army at the famous battle of Carchemish near the Euphrates River. With his defeat of the Egyptian forces at Carchemish, and the absorption of the Assyrian Empire into his Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar would establish his Neo-Babylonian Empire as the largest and most powerful empire the world had ever known. As we will discuss in some detail, the four empires of history which Scripture focuses on begin with this same Neo-Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2 and 7).
Beginning around 546 B.C. the Medo-Persian Empire, the second empire of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-vision (Daniel 2), would begin to makes itself known on the world scene when they conquered the kingdom of Lydia; that conquest would be followed in 539 B.C. with the conquest of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, then in 525 B.C. with the conquest of Egypt. After these and other minor conquests, the Medo-Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great and his many successors would succeed the Babylonian Empire and become the largest and most powerful empire the world had ever known.
In 330 B.C. Alexander the Great and his Grecian army would conquer the Medo-Persian Empire. the European holdings of Alexander’s empire, after the conquest of the vast Medo-Persian Empire along with several other minor, kingdoms throughout Asia Minor and Asia which were also conquered in the course of Alexander’s military campaigns, would, just as Scripture correctly foresaw, succeed the Medo-Persian Empire and “rule over the whole earth” (Daniel 2:39).
The stress, however, in both Nebuchadnezzar’s dream regarding the four successive empires (Daniel 2), as well as the stress in the prophet Daniel’s dream-vision regarding four successive “beasts” (Daniel 7), lies with the fourth empire and the synonymous fourth “beast” respectively for good reason. For the fourth empire is not only a conglomeration of the first three empires of Daniel 2 and 7, but it is also the final empire of mankind which Satan, through his Antichrist, will use in an attempt to wrestle control of earth and the human race from God one last time. Thus, it is to this fourth empire that we must now turn our attention in full.
We have already learned, while discussing both Nebuchadnezzar’s dream regarding four successive empires (Daniel 2), and the prophet Daniel’s dream-vision regarding four successive “beasts” (Daniel7), how, even though Scripture never explicitly names the second, third, or fourth empires, it does, nevertheless, provide us with enough unique qualities and characteristics of these empires to allow us to easily identify each from the many other empires of history. For example, using only the unique qualities and characteristics Scripture provides for the second and third empires, Biblical scholars are in virtual agreement when they identify these empires as the Medo-Persian Empire and the Grecian Empire of Alexander the Great respectively. Because the stress in both Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 is on the fourth empire and on the “beast” respectively, Scripture provides us with many more unique qualities and characteristics of the fourth empire than it does of either the second or the third empires. Thus, just as previous Biblical scholars used what few unique qualities and characteristics Scripture provided to help identify the second and third empires, so we should be able to take the many unique qualities and characteristics Scripture provides us regarding the fourth empire and use them to identify it. A brief review, then, of the unique qualities and/or characteristics provided by chapters 2 and 7 of the Book of Daniel regarding the fourth empire reveals the following eight unique qualities and characteristics:
1) That it would follow the the three previous empires in historical time.
2) That it would be an “exceedingly strong” empire.
3) That it would “crush and break” the three previous empires the geographical areas of the three previous empires.
4) That it would be a divided empire.
5) That as an empire, it would be a “different” type of empire from the previous three empires.
6) The fourth empire would be populated by a “mixture” of people, or ethnicities and cultures.
7) That the ten nations, or ten geographical “kingdoms” of Ezekiel 38 and 39 will be ten kingdoms that belong to the fourth empire. 8) That the Antichrist himself will not only be a king of this empire, but he would also be the last king of this empire. the fourth empire will follow the third empire in real time (Daniel 2:40; 7:7).
THE THIRTEEN UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FOURTH EMPIRE, OR BEAST, FROM THE BOOK OF REVELATION:
In the Book of Revelation, the aged Apostle John has much to say regarding the fourth empire of Daniel 2 and 7. While doing so, he provides us with several new and very important characteristics not given anywhere else in Scripture. Therefore, if we are to use all the many unique characteristics Scripture gives us regarding the fourth empire in an attempt to identify that empire from all the empires of history, we must first carefully examine all the unique characteristics the aged Apostle gives us regarding the fourth empire. After doing so, we will combine any new characteristics provided by the venerable Apostle with the eight unique characteristics we uncovered in Chapters 2 and 7 of the Book of Daniel, and then examine each unique characteristic individually in an attempt to identify the fourth empire of Scripture from all the empires of history.
Writing in the Book of Revelation, Apostle John says: “And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, and on each head, a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander His name and His dwelling place and those who live in Heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast all whose names have not been written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. He who has an ear let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refuse to worship the image to be killed. He forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666” (Revelation 13:1-18).
A careful reading of Chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation will show that the Apostle actually has three separate “beasts” in view. In Verses 1 through 4, the Apostle has in view the fourth empire of the Book of Daniel when he sees “a beast coming out of the sea.” In Verses 5 through 10, the Apostle has a second “beast” in view, one which is “given a mouth to utter proud words,” thus a man or the “little horn” of Daniel 7:8 which is the infamous Antichrist. In Verses 11 through 18, the Apostle John has a third “beast” in view, one which is seen “coming out of the earth.” This particular “beast” is a completely new beast never before mentioned in Scripture. Later, in Revelation 16:13, 19:20 and 20:10, the Apostle identifies this third “beast” as “the false prophet.” With the above being said, let us, then, take a closer look at all the aged Apostle has to say about these three “beasts”. The second and third “beasts,” as we will discover, will prove to be powerful eschatological figures who will play significant roles in both the fourth empire from which they will come, as well as in many eschatological events which will lead up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
We have previously learned in some detail how the four empires of Daniel 2 are synonymous with the four “beasts” of Daniel 7. Thus, that the first “beast” of Revelation 13: 1-5 is also synonymous with the fourth empire of Daniel 2, and the fourth “beast” of Daniel 7, should not come as any surprise. Moreover, confirmation that the Apostle John’s “beast” in Revelation 13: 1-5 is the same “beast” the prophet Daniel had in his dream in Daniel 7 can be obtained only by comparing the Apostle John’s dream-vision with the prophet Daniel’s dream-vision. For example, just as the prophet Daniel’s fourth “beast” is said to possess the infamous “ten horns” (Daniel 7:7), which are the ten geographical kingdoms of Ezekiel 38 and 39, so the Apostle John’s “beast” is also said to possess the same “ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns” (Revelation 13:1).
Furthermore, the prophet Daniel, while speaking of the fourth “beast,” wrote, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came out of the sea” (Daniel 7:2-3). While speaking of his first “beast,” the Apostle John speaks of seeing the same “sea” producing the same “beast”: “And I saw a beast coming out of the sea” (Revelation 13:1). The “sea” in both prophecies is symbolic of humanity as a whole (see Revelation 17:15). Thus, the four “beasts” of Daniel, as we previously learned, represent four successive empires which arise out of the sea of humanity. The Apostle John’s “beast,” then, must be viewed as the same “beast” because it too “comes up out of the” same “sea” of humanity.
Furthermore evidence that the Apostle John’s “beast” should be viewed as being synonymous with the prophet Daniel’s “beast” comes from the fact that the prophet Daniel was forced from his vantage point in history to look forward in time.As a result he saw a progression of empires represented by four “beasts;” the first of which was said to be “like a lion” (Daniel 7:4), the second is said to “look like a bear” (Daniel 7:5), and the third which is said to “look like a leopard” (Daniel 7:6). The fourth empire, however, which is said to “crush and devour” the three previous empires (Daniel 2:40), becomes, then, a composite empire, or “beast,” made up of the people and lands of the first three empires. However, when the Apostle John, who is forced, from the circumstances of his dream-vision which has, “through the Spirit,” taken him into the distant future, to look back over history, his first “beast” is a composite “beast” made up of the four “beasts” of Daniel 7 in reverse order. “The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion” (Revelation 13:2).
Further confirmation that John’s first “beast” (Revelation 13:1-4) is a composite “beast,” which is the fourth empire of Daniel 7, comes from Chapter 17 of the Book of Revelation where an angel interprets John’s dream-vision for him: “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls [of God’s wrath] came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.’ Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYStERY BABYLON tHE GREAt. tHE MOtHER OF PROStItUtES AND tHE ABOMINAtIONS OF tHE EARtH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angle said to me: ‘Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and the beast she rides, which has seven heads and ten horns. The beast which you saw once was, now is not, and will come up out of the abyss and go to his destruction. All the inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the Book of Life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because He once was, now is not, and yet will come. This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast [the second “beast” of Revelation 13:5-10] who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven [heads or “kings”] and is going to his destruction. the ten horns you saw are ten kings who have yet to receive a kingdom [the “ten kingdoms,” or geographical areas, of Ezekiel 38 and 39], but for one hour [or a brief moment in time] will receive authority as kings along with the beast [the eighth king who is the Antichrist]. They have one purpose and will give their authority to the beast [the Antichrist]. They will make war with the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers.’
Then the angel said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the prostitute sits, are people, multitudes, nations and languages [in other words, a sea of humanity]. The [second] beast [the Antichrist] and the ten horns [ten kingdoms] you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish His purpose by agreeing to give the [second] beast [the Antichrist] their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is a great city that rules over the kings of the earth [those who “committed adultery” with the great prostitute]” (Revelation 17:1-18).
The “many waters upon which the great prostitute sits” must be a reference to the same “great sea” of humanity from which the fourth “beast” of Daniel 7 is said to come (Daniel 7: 2-3), and the same “sea” of humanity from which the Apostle John saw his first “beast” rising out of earlier in Revelation 13:1. Indeed, the angel confirms our interpretation when he interprets the symbolic meaning of the “waters” for the aged Apostle: “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are many people, multitudes, nations and languages” (Revelation 13:15).
“Then the angel carried me in the Spirit into a desert” (Revelation 13:3). As previously discussed in some detail, because the peculiar form of Gnosticism which took shape in the Arabian desert early in the seventh century A.D. not only became the most dominate form of Gnosticism the world has ever known, but also evolved into the Islamic Empire, we believe this is clearly referring to the birthplace of the fourth empire, a birth which took place “in a desert.” This interpretation, we believe, will be confirmed when we discover the identity of the “woman” who sits on the “beast” (Revelation 13:3).
“There [in the desert] I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns” (Revelation 13: 3). Because the “beast” upon which the woman is sitting is said to be “covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns,” this must be the same “beast” the Apostle John saw earlier in his dream-vision (Revelation 13:1-4).We were told that that “beast” also possessed “ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head and on each head a blasphemous name” (Revelation 13:1). the woman, however, is viewed by the aged Apostle as being separate from the “beast” upon which she is sitting: “The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls [representing great wealth]. She had a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead:
BABYLON tHE GREAt
tHE MOtHER OF PROStItUtES AND tHE ABOMINAtIONS OF tHE EARtH
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints [tribulation Saints], the blood of those who bore testimony [during the Great tribulation Period] to Jesus” (Revelation 13:4-7).
The angel then goes on and specifically identifies the “woman” when he says: “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 13; 18). If the “beast” upon which the “woman” is sitting is the fourth great empire of Scripture, then reason dictates that the “woman,” who is “a great city,” must represent the most important city within the fourth empire upon which she sits. Moreover, because the Apostle sees all of this taking place “in a desert,” like the empire upon which she sits, the “woman” must be symbolic of a city “in a desert” [Mecca?] But what is the symbolic meaning of “the golden cup in her hand?” The answer to this question, naturally, can be found only in the Old testament, specifically with the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah.
The prophet Isaiah, writing around 700 B.C., instructs the nation of Israel when he writes: “Awake, awake! Rise up, 0 Jerusalem, you have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of His wrath, you have drained it to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger…This is what the Sovereign Lord says, your God, who defends His people: ‘See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that makes men stagger; from that cup, the goblet of My wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors” (Isaiah 51:17, 22-23). Therefore, the “golden cup” in the “great prostitute’s hand”, represents God’s coming wrath.
The prophet Jeremiah, writing around 626 B.C., or approximately 75 years after the prophet Isaiah penned his prophetic book, adds to the information regarding the cup of God’s wrath when he explicitly connects the Neo-Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar to the golden cup of God’s wrath: “Babylon was a gold cup in the Lord’s hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations have drunk her wine; therefore they have gone mad. (Jeremiah 51:7-8). This must, then, be the same “golden cup” which is viewed as being in the hands of the “woman,” “the great city” of the fourth empire, and it is said to be “filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries” which will bring upon her and the fourth empire upon which she sits the wrath of God (Revelation 16). This would also explain the mysterious name on her forehead, “MYStERY BABYLON tHE GREAt, tHE MOtHER OF PROStItUtES AND tHE ABOMINAtIONS OF tHE EARtH.” Because the Neo-Babylonian Empire was the first of the four successive empires of Scripture, she is referred to as being “tHE MOtHER” of the three successive empires, all of which are then referred to as being “PROStItUtES” or heresies.
“I saw that the woman [the great city in a desert] was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus” (Revelation 16: 6) must be speaking about the Great tribulation Period when the fourth empire, led by its king the Antichrist, will persecute the world-wide Church of Jesus Christ.
The angel provides us with several more new, and very significant, details regarding the fourth empire, or “beast.” For example, he tells Apostle John that, “The beast [the fourth empire] you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come” (Revelation 16: 8). What can the angel possibly mean by such cryptic language? The answer to this question will both astonish the reader, and will be a strong proof regarding the exact identity of the fourth empire. We will, however, examine this unique characteristic of the fourth empire in great detail when we examine each unique characteristic given by Scripture regarding the fourth empire individually.
Another remarkable clue to the identity of the fourth empire, or “beast,” comes from Revelation 13: 9-11 when it says: “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman [the great city of the fourth empire] sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast [the Antichrist] who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction”.
Most Evangelical-Protestant scholars interpret the “seven hills” upon which the “woman,” or “great city,” sits to be the city of Rome. Indeed, the ancient city of Rome did begin as a network of seven settlements on the left bank of the tiber River. Thus, the designation of the ancient city of Rome as being “the city on seven hills” was commonplace among ancient Roman writers, i.e., Virgil, Martial, Cicero, etc. However, Scripture is clear when it says “The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits” (Revelation 13:9). And what is the woman sitting on in the prophecy? The beast which is the fourth empire! So it must be the fourth empire itself which sits up