And in the days of these [ten] kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed....
After this I saw...a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible...and it had ten horns....And the ten horns...are ten kings....
And...behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns....
And I...saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns....
I saw a woman sit[ting] upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns....And the ten horns...are ten kings....
Of all the prophecies in the Bible, Revelation 17 is the most astonishing. It culminates a series of visions of four world empires, the fourth to be revived in the "last days" and ruled by Antichrist through ten subordinate "kings"—a series of visions which began 600 years earlier in Daniel 2 with Nebuchadnezzar's image. The image's "head of gold" was the first world empire, the Babylonian; the "breast and arms of silver" pictured the succeeding Medo-Persian Empire; next was the Grecian represented by "belly and thighs of brass"; and finally the "legs of iron, and feet [with ten toes signifying ten kings] part of iron and part of clay" depicted the fourth world empire arising out of Rome.
Daniel's prophecy (continued in Chapters 7-12) foretold accurate details of coming world empires which we can't enumerate. Apropos of our subject, however, the image's two legs foretold the Roman Empire's division into East and West. And so it happened, first politically; centuries later, religiously. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (which in July again gained control of religion in Russia) remain divided to this day. They will, however, be reunited as the core of Antichrist's new world religion.
In a second vision, the four world empires were seen as beasts. The fourth had ten horns, representing, like the ten toes on the image, "ten kings" (Dan:7:24) yet to arise. The ancient Roman Empire was never ruled by a coalition of ten kings; yet so it must be when "the God of heaven sets up [his] kingdom." Thus the Roman Empire must be revived in that form.
God's millennial kingdom will not (as many are teaching) result from a gradual takeover of the world by the church but through a sudden catastrophic intervention by Christ from heaven. He is the stone "cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet...the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold [were] broken to pieces...and the stone...became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth" (2:34-35). Christ's sudden intervention at Armageddon is also presented by Paul: "And then shall that Wicked [Antichrist] be revealed, whom the Lord shall...destroy with the brightness of his coming" (2 Thes:2:8-10). The same event is found in Zechariah 12-14, Revelation 19 and elsewhere.
The Bible ignores other empires, some of which have been larger than the four above. Why? They won't be revived. For centuries the seat of world power was Egypt. There were great dynasties in China, Genghis Khan's far-ranging Mongolian empire, and vast Mayan and Aztec kingdoms in Central and South America. The Arabs once controlled most of North Africa, the Middle East and much of Europe. These empires will not rise again. The United States has been the dominant industrial and military force for 50 years, but that dominance cannot continue. The prophecies are clear: the Roman Empire will be revived, with Antichrist's seat in Western Europe and the world religion's headquarters in Rome.
In addition to the revived Roman Empire, the ten-horned beast also depicts Satan (the "great red dragon") and a satanically empowered man (Rev:13:4-8)—the coming world ruler, or Antichrist. Yet it wasn't so much the sight of this terrifying beast that took John's breath away, but the woman who was riding him: "MYSTERY, BABYLON." Babylon is not a country but a city (certainly not the United States). Nor is it the city Saddam is rebuilding in Iraq, for that historic Babylon, in ruins for 2,300 years, obviously does not meet the five criteria. Nor are there two Babylons (a spiritual one and a commercial one) shown in Revelation 17 and 18. They are one and the same.
Babylon was built around the ruins of the Tower of Babel, which, we noted in June, represented the false religion of human effort in opposition to salvation by grace through faith in Christ. It was the satanically inspired attempt to establish man as his own God. Babel's antichrist paganism remained as the unifying factor linking the four successive world empires. And so it must be revived with the Roman Empire.
Like Nimrod at Babel, the Caesars presided over the pagan priesthood and were worshiped as God. All who refused to bow down before the emperor's image in recognition of his deity were slain––a practice which will be reestablished under Antichrist (Rev:13:8,14-15). Most astonishing of all, "Christianity" must merge with Babel's antichrist paganism to form the new world religion! That insight was a major reason for John's amazement.
That a gorgeously clad woman was holding the reins astride such a terrifying, world-devouring beast was incredible. The woman's identity, however, staggered John far more. Beneath the erotic attire, flashy jewelry and impudent gaze there was a haunting familiarity. It couldn't be! How had Christ's chaste bride become this brazen whore? What alchemy had transformed that small, despised flock of humble followers of the Lamb into this notorious prostitute toasting Satan with the blood of the martyrs in a golden cup! How could the church, hated and persecuted by the world, as Christ had said she would be––how could she have become this Machiavellian despot that reigned over the kings of the earth?
History authenticates John's vision. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of a heavenly minded church without earthly ambition, a church whose members, increased to about 10 percent of the Roman Empire, were oppressed by the world and periodically slaughtered. Then, in AD 313, freedom from persecution came unexpectedly and suddenly under Constantine. Unfortunately, what seemed like a gift from God was a trap laid by Satan. It set the stage for an apostasy that would last more than a millennium––and is now gathering renewed momentum.
When he gave Christianity official status alongside paganism, Constantine, as emperor and "Pontifex Maximus" over the pagan priesthood known as the Pontifical College, became the de facto head of the Christian Church. As such he invented and took the title "Vicar of Christ." Coming from the Latin vicarius, vicar means "in the place of." Its Greek equivalent is anti. Thus the popes' title, "Vicar of Christ," literally means "Antichrist"—the one who pretends to be Christ.
For centuries, Protestant creeds identified the popes as antichrists. That label surely applies to the paganized Christianity over which the popes have presided as Constantine's successors. Succeeding him also as head of Rome's Pontifical College, the popes retain to this day the related pagan title "Pontifex Maximus." Undoubtedly, however, the Antichrist will be the new Constantine—head of the new world order—with the Roman pontiff his right-hand man.
Constantine, the first "Vicar of Christ," did indeed prove to be an antichrist. Not a genuine Christian, he had no concern for doctrine but only for religious unity in his empire. The original ecumenist, he convened the first Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicea, in AD 325, set the agenda and presided over it as Charlemagne would over the Council of Chalon 500 years later during his attempt to revive the Roman Empire. Though all such attempts failed, the popes gave the Empire continuity in religion and wielded supreme secular authority as well. Historian R. W. Southern reminds us,
...there was in Rome a single spiritual and temporal authority [the papacy] exercising powers which in the end exceeded those that had ever lain within the grasp of a Roman Emperor.
To John's utter amazement, he saw that the church Christ had founded would metamorphose into "that city...on seven hills...that rules over the kings of the earth"! Picture, for example, the humbled emperor Henry IV waiting barefoot in the snows at Canossa to make his peace with Pope Gregory VII in 1077! As noted last month, no other city in the world except Vatican City "rules over kings" and meets the other four criteria which identify the woman in Revelation 17. In the July 3, 1992 National Catholic Reporter (NCR) a Catholic priest confesses, "The church...was subverted by the ambitions of such men as [Popes] Gregory VII, Innocent III and Boniface VII [and many others] into a politico-ecclesiastical institution wielding totalitarian power in both sacred and secular fields." Historian Walter James elaborates:
The Papacy controlled the gateway to heaven which all the faithful, including their rulers, hoped earnestly to enter....[I]t gave the Popes a moral authority which has never been wielded since. A Pope like Innocent III held all Europe in his net....
If that seven-headed beast with ten horns, the revived Roman Empire, is to appear, then the "woman" must hold the reins once again. While the Roman Catholic Church, since the Reformation, saw its supreme power challenged, it has regained much. The Vatican is a sovereign state like any nation. It exchanges ambassadors with the world's nations and participates in international politics. The NCR boasts, "No other church has such privileged access" to top political gatherings.
John Paul II has emerged as the world's most respected and influential leader. Though papal power is not wielded as overtly as during the Middle Ages, yet the Pope still "rules over the kings of the earth." Presidents Bush and Gorbachev consulted with the Pope at least once a week. President Reagan solicited the Pope's help against communism. Using Poland as a base, agents of the Vatican worked with the CIA to bring down communism and the Berlin Wall. These amazing events, Gorbachev later confessed, could not have occurred without John Paul II.
Ecumenism is essential in creating a "Christianity" which embraces all religions. Psychology plays a major ecumenical role by providing common faith, language and ritual for everyone from atheists, cultists and occultists to Roman Catholics and evangelicals. Today the Reformation is seen as a semantic misunderstanding, its vital issues blurred or ignored. There is a growing cooperation between the National Association of Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, according to Jack White, NAE president. Even leading cult experts whitewash Rome's heresies. Chuck Colson's (like Billy Graham's) embrace of Catholicism and acceptance of the Templeton Prize is one more shocking example of the growing ecumenism among evangelical leaders which is preparing the way for Antichrist. (See "Q&A" for further clarification.) Nor could a more apt pope than John Paul II have arrived upon the scene at this crucial hour.
The centuries-long involvement of Roman Catholicism in pagan/occultic practices has led naturally to its present marriage to the New Age. Rome has made it clear that the disciplining of New Age priest Matthew Fox is for failure to submit to the hierarchy but not for his horrendous heresies ("News Alerts.") Fox continues as a priest with a huge following among Catholics. The involvement in Eastern mysticism of tens of thousands of priests, nuns, and laity is condoned by the Vatican.
We have documented the accelerating secular acceptance of New Age "spirituality" such as Nancy Reagan's obsession with astrology and President Reagan's submission to astrological guidance and his own superstitions. Matters have only gotten worse with the new administration. Bill and Hillary Clinton's and Al Gore's commitment to an amoral, humanistic and New Age agenda is well known. That all three claim to be "Christians" fits the fact that the world religion will be an antichrist "Christianity."
Time magazine recently had a picture of Hillary Clinton with eyes closed, head reverently bowed, as a North American Indian shaman performed a ritual over her. Concluding a recent speech, Hillary declared, "Let us be willing to remold society by redefining what it means to be a human being in the twentieth century, moving into a new millennium." Yes, the Clintons intend to "remold society" and to "redefine what it means to be a human being"!
Part of that remolding involves promoting ungodly lifestyles. The consequences are devastating and worsening. Raw statistics condemn the Clintons' encouragement of homosexuality. The median age of death for married heterosexual men is nearly twice that of homosexuals: 75 compared with 39. Only 1 percent of homosexuals live beyond age 65. The average age of death for married women is 79 compared with 45 for lesbians (Christian News, 1/13/92). Secular studies have demonstrated that living together before marriage increases the likelihood of divorce––exactly the opposite of what those who engage in "safe sex" imagine (The Baptist Challenge, 10/92).
Our world is fast ripening for God's judgment. Consider a simple comparison between the seven leading problems in "Christian" America's schools in the 1940s and the 1990s. Fifty years ago the worst problems faced by teachers and administrators were 1) talking in class, 2) chewing gum, 3) making noise, 4) running in halls, 5) cutting in line, 6) dress code violations, 7) littering. Today they are 1) drug abuse, 2) alcohol abuse, 3) pregnancy, 4) suicide, 5) rape, 6) robbery, 7) assault. How revealing!
Everywhere youth is bombarded not only with evil but with persuasively presented antichrist philosophies. A recent TV series began with Indiana Jones as a boy in India going to the Theosophical Society to meet founder Annie Besant. There he was introduced to Jidhu Krishnamurti, the "chosen world leader"; he then was taken to various Hindu and Buddhist temples. Christianity was degraded and Jesus was put on the level of all other "religious leaders." Behold an even more insidious effort by George Lucas to indoctrinate the West into shamanism than even the Star Wars series of films!
Christians face two dangers: 1) becoming so immunized to apostasy that it seems normal and no longer alarming; 2) becoming discouraged and deciding that there is no use in standing up to such overwhelming evil. Yes, the stage is set for Antichrist. He will take over the world. False "Christianity" will deceive billions. The Bible says so. We will not save the world or even America. But we can rescue countless individuals through prayer, godly example and the proclamation of the gospel. Let us do so! TBC