In the last post we looked, albeit briefly, at how God gives power and authority to kings and kingdoms, and how He has always done so. In looking towards His final kingdom, before the earth is destroyed, we shall take a closer look at the kingdoms which precede it, and the differences between them.
We touched on the subject of today’s kingdoms in The Biggest Picture and, in particular, how Donald Trump may well have been placed in the position of authority which he finds himself in because of God’s purposes, particularly for the Middle East region. At the time of writing this post, I have woken to the news that Trump has used 59 Cruise missiles against Syria. Who’s to say that it wasn’t God himself who placed those particular spears in Trump’s hand?
It is clear that we are living in the sticky end of time; certainly the birthing pains that so many of the prophets predicted are visible. And, in order for the final kingdom to be established here on earth (just as it already is in heaven), several players will have to be positioned on the board.
When you consider the history of the kingdoms which I mentioned briefly in my last post, there may be something obvious that they have in common – that is, every single one of them have been used to oppress Isra’el. There are no exceptions to this. Of course, when looking at Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, the Medo-Persian Empire, Greece, the Roman Empire, and the Ottoman Islamic Caliphate, it will be easy for historians to point out that there have been other kingdoms throughout the same period, including the far reaching British Empire. This is true. However, the other empires that existed did so without their reach extending to the land of Isra’el, and without direct oppression of the Hebrews. This discussion will inevitably lead us to Hitler and his Third Reich. I will endeavour to settle this matter through looking at scripture, but, I am sure, it will never be settled to the satisfaction of all. I can only offer a biblical perspective of the rise and fall of kingdoms.
Before we take a closer look at the seven kingdoms mentioned above, as well as a brief sortie into Western political history, I think it is prudent to firmly establish that God, from the very outset, uses other nations (outside of Isra’el) in order to achieve His purposes. There really shouldn’t be any confusion about this. The Bible provides us with not only an historical record of the birth and rise and decline and fall of the nation of Isra’el, but also with a record of the very nature of God. He has not changed, for He cannot change.
The book of Judges is one of the most significant books of the Old Testament. It is often overlooked and sits there wedged between the heroic acts recorded in the book of Joshua and the rise of Samuel the prophet. It covers a period of roughly 400 years between the death of Joshua and the choosing of Saul as king of Isra’el. Isra’el had effectively conquered Canaan but had failed to completely drive out the nations who were there as God had instructed them. As a result of this failure to be fully obedient, God tried to teach Isra’el how to follow His word. In order to achieve this, God chose to use the nations which Isra’el had failed to drive out, as tools for disciplining His chosen people. Here’s a few snippets from Judges to show you what I am talking about:
“And it came to pass, when Isra’el was strong, that they put the Canaanites under tribute, but they did not completely drive them out.” [Judges 1:28 NKJV]
“Then the Angel of Yehovah came up from Gigal to Bochim, and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; and you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?
“Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” ” [Judges 2:1-3]
To be clear, when it says in 1:28 that Isra’el put the ‘Canaanites under tribute’, it means that Isra’el, rather than driving them out of the land, made agreements (covenants) with them in exchange for money.
“Now these are the nations which Yehovah left, that He might test Isra’el by them…” [Judges 3:1a]
So, the promise from God had been that providing the Hebrews were fully obedient, He would drive out the nations in Canaan for them. However, because they were disobedient, He left some nations there for the purposes of testing and discipling Isra’el.
This shows us the nature of God. He chose to use other nations for the purposes of discipling His chosen race. It follows that if He did that then, He will still do that today, for He is the same today as He always has been and always will be. That is what the name I AM means. In Hebrew, what we get as ‘I AM’ is, in fact, ‘ehyeh asher ehyeh‘ ( I will be what I will be).
But, God doesn’t only use other nations to discipline Isra’el. He also uses Isra’el to discipline other nations. You see, God’s purposes and the means by which He achieves them are always multi-faceted. A true double-edged sword. A good example of this can be found in Genesis chapter 15 when God first sets out His covenant with Abraham. God tells Abraham that his descendants will serve a foreign nation (Egypt) whom He will judge (not just for the way they treat Isra’el, but also for their idolatry), and after 400 years would come out of Egypt into the land that He had promised. 400 years might seem like a long time. Don’t get me wrong – it is a long time. But God had purposed to kill more than one bird with this particular stone. Not only did Isra’el have to stay in Egypt for 400 years so that God could judge Egypt, but He also wanted to use Isra’el as His agent in judging another nation.
“But in the fourth generation they shall return here (Canaan), for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” [Genesis 15:16 (my brackets)]
So, by implication, we can see that part of the reason for Isra’el staying in Egypt for four generations, was in fact to allow the Amorites to reach the limit which God had set for them – that is to say, He had given them 400 years to repent of their ways. He, of course, knew that they wouldn’t repent – for He knows everything, so He decided it should be His chosen nation, Isra’el, who would be His sword in bringing judgement upon the Amorites. Which He did.
This evidence makes it clear that God will see His purposes done by whoever and whenever He chooses. I am sure this morning those who oppose Donald Trump will be raising their voices of dissent at his actions overnight. However, I think the evidence suggests that God has put Trump in that position (whether we like it or not), and I am inclined to believe that the evidence also suggests that the time for judgement upon Syria is drawing near. Read Isaiah chapter 17 for confirmation of this. Did you know that Damascus remains the only remaining city of what we call the ancient world which has never fallen? You might not like Trump but, as a believer, you have no choice but to accept that God has put him there and will use him for His purposes.
Right, let’s take a look, in detail, at the seven kingdoms mentioned in the previous post and how the interpretations which I have put forward of who these kingdoms are came about.
The prophecies regarding the kingdoms of the world are almost exclusively found in two books which are linked by several common future events. For the main, in the book of Daniel, we find mention of these kingdoms, as well as very clear explanations for parts of the prophecy enabling us to identify clearly certain key players in history. The rest of the prophecies are found in the book of Revelation. Let’s start with Daniel.
As a whole, the book of Daniel, so called because it is widely attributed to a Hebrew called Daniel, was written during one young Hebrew man’s captivity in Babylon. This came about after the Babylonian besiegement of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile and captivity of the Hebrews, somewhere between 602 BC and 586 BC. The book contains a series of well-known Sunday school stories, as well as the most significant prophecies for the future of Isra’el and God’s plan for the redemption of mankind through Isra’el.
The first of these prophecies comes in chapter two, which we have already discussed in The Biggest Picture – that of the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The image was a depiction of a total of five kingdoms from the one which had been given already to Nebuchadnezzar right through to the last earthly kingdom which will directly precede the coming of God’s kingdom to the earthly realms. As discussed previously, the kingdoms which were represented in the image were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and the final two being two incarnations of the same Islamic Caliphate. It is true that biblical scholars have long held that the fourth kingdom is Rome and the fifth, a resurgent Rome. This is mainly because of a single misunderstanding of a verse in Daniel chapter nine, which we will discuss later.
The second prophecy contained in Daniel, which depicts the kingdoms of the earth, comes in chapter seven. It essentially depicts the same four kingdoms as in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. However, it reveals them as beasts which come from the sea. This imagery is very important in any interpretation of biblical prophecy because it acts as a key, or a legend, to any later prophecies. Let’s take a look at the vision which Daniel had, and then the interpretation of the vision which follows.
“Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.
The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’
After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.
After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, 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.” ” [Daniel 7:2-8]
This is a fairly complex prophecy, and one which many steer away from because there is much to get confused over. However, before we continue with what was revealed to Daniel, a few notes would be applicable. Note, first of all, that the winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. This shows us that God is orchestrating these events. There are essentially two places were kingdoms can exist – in the realm of heaven, or upon the earth. Here Daniel is shown that heaven causes these four kingdoms, represented by beasts, to have authority in the earthly realm. Generally the Great Sea is the name given to what we called today, the Mediterranean. So, we can be sure that all of these kingdoms will have some connection with that area. Whenever a prophecy deals explicitly with something that comes from the sea or from the earth then we can be sure that we are looking at something that will come from the world of men. The sea, for example, is used in many prophecies to denote people of the earth. In Daniel’s vision, the four beasts all come from the sea, that is mankind. Occasionally, when some prophecies refer to the earth they are specifically talking about the physical land of Isra’el, as we shall see later.
The second point we should take note of is that these beasts appear one after another, which signifies that they are in sequence. But, be warned, because the vision continues in the heavenly realm, no time sequence as we understand can be attributed to it. We can, I am sure, however take that these beasts come one after the other, but also that the fourth beast was powerful enough to subdue the other beasts.
Think back to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream for a moment. You might recall that the quality of the metals deteriorated (Gold to Silver to Bronze to Iron), but as they did, they increased in strength – iron being significantly stronger than gold. Although it is not obviously stated in the animals that Daniel compares the successive beasts to, we can be sure that the fourth beast was much stronger than the others because of the reference made to it trampling the residue underfoot.
It is also important to note that Daniel only likens what he saw in the vision to a lion, a bear, and a leopard. When we see into the spirit or heavenly realm, the things which we see will rarely display a direct correlation to any earthy creatures.
When we return to the text of Daniel chapter seven, we find that the vision has jumped forward to a day in the future which is often described as the Day of the Lord – the day upon which God will judge mankind. This can be confusing. However, we are given enough information to get the right context.
What is described in verses 9-11 is the court of God and the horn which spoke pompous words and was a part of the fourth beast, is on trial and is thrown into the fire of God’s wrath. Then we come to verse 12. This is where we need to have some understanding of the multiple facets to the things of God. For example, we see in this verse that the rests of the beasts have their dominion taken away but keep their lives. This is difficult to understand because the beasts appear to come from the sea in some kind of sequence, which suggests the passing of time.
“As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.” [Daniel 7:12]
Firstly, let us remember that this part of the vision is happening in heaven. From our earthy point of view, this may have happened already or may not have happened yet. That is to say that Daniel was looking to a future event. We also need to understand that when we read ‘kingdom’, we need to understand that it can mean (especially in prophecy) a great deal more than a realm in which a king reigns. Yes, it can mean that, but, at times, it can also refer to the person of the king himself – as in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in which Daniel tells him ‘You O king are that head of gold’. But, we also know that the head of gold also refers to the Babylonian Empire, which existed before and after Nebuchadnezzar.
Then we come to the words which are attributed to these kingdoms, such as authority and dominion and power and strength. There is no easy understanding of these things. What we can be sure of is that they are mean different things, but can also be interchangeable. When you look again at verse 12, you may ask how can these beasts have their dominion taken away but remain alive. In this particular case we can suggest that their dominion refers to a place in space and time in which their kingdoms were allowed to have authority. Just because they have no earthly place in which to exercise their authority, doesn’t mean that they cease to exist. Verse 12 tells us that they clearly remain alive as some kind of entity in the heavenly realm.
I want to leave verses 13-15 for the moment because they deal specifically with the ushering in of the final kingdom. So, we can skip forward to the interpretation of Daniel’s terrifying vision. I think it prudent to accept that who Daniel asked about the fourth beast, in particular, was a being, most likely an angel of God’s own host and therefore could see into both realms simultaneously. Here’s what was said to Daniel by way of interpretation of the vision:
” ‘Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’
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.
I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came and a judgement was made in favour of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.
Thus he said:
‘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 rise 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.’ ” [Daniel 7:17-25]
Let’s stop here for a moment and just clarify a couple of points in the text so as to make it easier to understand.
The fourth beast was clearly different from any of the other beasts and Daniel wanted to understand better the reasons why. The angel explains that the beasts are four earthly kings, but also that the fourth beast shall be a kingdom on earth. This kingdom will devour the whole earth and break it into pieces. So, what would make this particular kingdom different from the previous ones? If we take the three previous ones to be those of Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece, the striking difference is that the previous three, whilst being pagan in nature, were in fact political rather than religious in their motivation for conquering other nations. None of them invaded and conquered with the intention of imposing their own religions upon their victims. The four beast, however, is different because, if we assume it to be the Islamic Caliphate, then that is the very reason for its existence – to enforce its caliphate and religious law upon all peoples, or to kill them if they refuse.
In this modern age there is a great deal of talk about Islam being a peaceful religion but the history books clearly show this not to be the case. This strengthens the notion that the fourth beast cannot be the Roman Empire even more strongly. Rome never crushed existing culture. The Pax Romana was achieved through tolerance and tribute, providing the lands they occupied paid their taxes. The caliphate, however, systemically destroyed everything in its path. It intentionally left no trace of any other culture or faith wherever it went.
We should also note that this kingdom will devour the whole earth. This is a little difficult to explain, however, I feel that what should be said is that what we understand of the caliphate from the pages of history is really little more than the warm up act for the main event. When the caliphate was finally defeated in 1922, the world was rid of an empire than had spanned almost 1400 years – the longest single empire ever. We overlook it as Christians because we are programmed to look at Rome as the beast. The explanation given to Daniel is clearly about the resurgent Islamic Caliphate because the events which are discussed are still yet to arrive.
Now we must deal with the horns. Ten horns, we are told, represent ten kings who will rise from this fourth kingdom. If we stick, for a moment, with our assertion that the beast is an Islamic Caliphate and not Rome, then the ten kings are a coalition of ten Arab nations (or possibly nine Arab nations plus Isra’el), which we are yet to see. There was a time when the church was convinced that these ten kings would be the ten main states of the European Union but we can safely rule that out when today we have 28 member states. Of course, the UK is leaving and that makes just 27, but Europe as a whole would implode were another 17 states to all leave.
Look again at today’s Arab nations. They surround Isra’el on all sides. How long before they start forming a true coalition? Be very watchful of Turkey. Its president, Recep Erdogan, is currently trying to introduce Sharia (Islamic) Law into Turkey. He has been talking of calling this move the Neo-Ottoman Order. If he starts to bring Arab nations together and appears to be wanting to be a peacemaker in the Middle East, then watch even more carefully. It will be prophecy unfolding before your very eyes.
Let’s imagine that ten Arab nations form a coalition, then imagine that one leading Arab state invades three other nations and declares himself ruler of those annexed states. When this happens, you will see the one whom we know as the Anti-Christ, for it is the Anti-Christ whom is the one who speaks with pompous words. He will change times and the law. Watch for this. This will be the imposition of the Islamic calendar and Sharia law.
Now, it is important to know that when Old Testament prophecy starts to speak about the ‘saints of the Most High’, it is unlikely to be talking of the church. This is Isra’el. It is Isra’el whom the Anti-Christ will seek to destroy completely, and he will try to do it by making a pact with Isra’el. This seven year pact, which we will discuss carefully later, is what is known as a hudna. Under Islamic teaching from both the Koran and the Hadith, Muslims are encouraged to make agreements and pacts with infidels in order to get the upper hand over them when they break the agreements.
The ‘time and times and half a time’ refers to the three and a half years of the final seven years, known as Jacob’s Trouble or the Great Tribulation, when Isra’el will find themselves on the wrong end of such a broken agreement and suffer the most intense persecution and annihilation ever known in the history of mankind.
We shall leave Daniel chapter seven here for the moment but will return to it in The Final Kingdom – Part Two.