Bible Prophecy, Chap. 13, Appendix: Fads and Misconceptions
Bible prophecy is inherently complex, and that complexity leads to many differences of opinion on interpretation. But some teachings can be at least partially clarified with attention to detail. Here are some of the more popular interpretations and rebuttals.
Rev. 11:1–12 describes them as individual human beings with miraculous powers, who wear sackcloth and prophesy for 3-1/2 years. This is the same description found in Zech. 4:3, 11, and 14. They are killed by the Beast during the 6th trumpet judgment, left in the center of Jerusalem for 3-1/2 days, raised back to life by God, and then taken up to heaven while their enemies watch.
Anyone and anything that doesn’t match all these criteria is not either of the Two Witnesses. So it isn’t Israel and the church, nor any random political leaders, nor the Old and New Testaments, nor any other random candidate.
A blood moon is simply a lunar eclipse where conditions are such that the moon appears reddish in color. A tetrad is when four such eclipses occur in a row. A Shemitah year is so named for the command to Israel to let their fields remain unplowed every 7th year, so the land could rest. This is strictly for Israel, not anyone else, and none of the curses for failure to observe these years apply to any other nation.
None of these concepts are part of Bible prophecy. Phrases such as “the moon will turn to blood and the sun to darkness” are indeed found in scripture, but each context shows that they are not routine astronomical events, and usually also occur with the darkening or falling of the stars. One way all of these things could happen at once is during a volcanic eruption where the sky is blocked out, and another would be divine intervention. But the normal astronomical events cannot all happen at the same time.
Theories such as these tend to leave out any tetrads that did not occur on a significant date in history, and not all of the ones that did were before the events they allegedly pointed to. This is cherry-picking the data and fudging the dates. They also lead us to wonder why the biggest events, such as the Holocaust, were not foretold by any such signs. See this article1 for details.
Scripture does say that the heavenly bodies serve as signs and to count off years, but this hardly means that every alignment of stars or every tetrad is a prophetic sign. So there is no reason to think that the latest astronomical alignments or phenomena are foretelling world events. One must be careful when connecting dots; they can’t be connected randomly or on a whim.
One modern prophecy fad is to believe that the coming Beast will be the Muslim Mahdi (or Twelfth Imam). But can this be supported by scripture?
First of all, we need to distinguish between the Beast and the Antichrist. There are two beasts mentioned in Revelation: the First Beast and the Second Beast or False Prophet. The first is primarily political and will be the one possessed by Satan at the midpoint of the Tribulation, desecrating the Temple and declaring himself God. The second has to do with religion and would thus be the only one to qualify as an antichrist. This is the one who will demand that everyone worship the First Beast, and who will order the Mark to be enforced (see next section).
So the only possible connection of Islamic prophecy to the end times would be to the False Prophet. But since no Muslim would pretend to be Allah, their Mahdi would not demand that the world worship anyone on earth. But will either of the Beasts be Muslim, even if not the Mahdi? After all, the method of execution for many will be beheading (Rev. 20:4). However, this one fact is hardly enough to identify the False Prophet as a Muslim. This is during the second half of the Tribulation, after the False Prophet has demanded that the whole world worship the First Beast, who has declared himself God. Thus the beheadings of Rev. 20:4 can have nothing to do with Islam. It may well be that beheading is simply the preferred Satanic method of execution.
Then does scripture support someone of Muslim heritage who simply apostasizes? That is, can we trace the lineage of either of the Beasts arising from either Islam or a nation that practices it? In the 70 Weeks prophecy of Daniel, we are told that there is a coming “prince”. It was to be the people of this prince that would destroy the Temple, which happened in 70 a.d. The Roman army often contained people of many ethnicities, but the lineage of those people does not necessarily apply to the prince himself. So who was the prince? The Roman general Titus. He was neither Arab nor Muslim, since Islam was not invented until the 600s a.d. While one might point to the Ottoman Empire as having ruled the general area out of which the Beasts might come, the Roman Empire was always ruled by Europeans. And the type or shadow of the Beast, Antiochus Epiphanes, was a Roman of Greek lineage. As for the False Prophet, nothing at all is said about his lineage or people.
But what did Jesus mean when he said in John 5:43, “I have come with the authority of my Father and you won’t accept me, but if someone comes by their own authority you’ll accept them”? Many believe this means the Antichrist will be a Jew. Now since many Jews will reject the Beast when he desecrates the Temple, it could only apply to those who remain. However, Rev. 13:1 says the First Beast arises out of the sea, which symbolizes the non-Jewish nations. Rev. 13:11 says that the Second Beast arises out of the land, which symbolizes the people of Israel. Yet it is the First Beast who enforces the 7-year treaty.
There is a book by Phillip Goodman called The Assyrian Connection that proposes a Syrian (Micah 5:5) as the Antichrist. He argues that the Antichrist will arise out of the eastern leg of the old Roman Empire, an area presently dominated by Islam. But none of the passages to which he appeals clearly point to the coming Antichrist or to the then non-existent religion of Islam. Not even Antiochus Epiphanes, who first fulfilled the prophecy of the Abomination of Desolation, was Assyrian. Even so, the phrase “the Assyrian” could be an expression meaning “the Assyrian people”, just as we might say that “the American” is going to rise up against tyranny. More details and theories can be found at this article.2
But perhaps the strongest argument against a Muslim Antichrist is that the present Islamic nations will be wiped out either early in the Tribulation or just before it starts; see the chapter on Transitions. In fact, all religions will be outlawed when the Beast declares himself God, including the ancient Babylonian religion; see the Mystery Babylon section following. The Antichrist will not be an atheist, but neither will he be identified with any former religion. Islam certainly is serving a Satanic purpose, and supplies the motivation for the Psalm 83 coalition against Israel, but it will not be a significant entity in the Tribulation, nor will the Antichrist or either of the Beasts be Islamic.
Revelation 13:17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
Revelation 14:9 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand…
What is the Mark? The beast’s name or number. It is not our personal ID. Even if the world went back to using beads for currency, this mark would still be required to do business. So technology doesn’t matter, it’s whether this Mark represents your willing citizenship in the Beast’s kingdom.
How is the Mark given? Etched on the forehead or right hand. Why these two locations? The most likely reason is that it refers to the Beast’s withered right arm and blind right eye (Zech. 11:17).
When is it given? After the seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:15). How do we know when the 7th trumpet has been sounded? Here are the judgments of the trumpets in order, by chapter and verse in Revelation. We will not see the Mark of the Beast until after all of those things have happened. So since not even the 1st trumpet has sounded, we aren’t even close to seeing the Mark of the Beast.
Some people think that any and all references to beasts in the Bible can be applied to this context, such that pretty much anyone and anything can be called the Mark of the Beast. By this method, even Israel or Jesus would qualify. The foolishness of this idea is obvious, and is only being mentioned because there are actually people who think this is how the Bible should be interpreted.
In this section we will focus on three particular entities in Bible prophecy, and speculate on the identities of each.
Be careful to understand that not every beast in scripture denotes the same entity, such that great care should be taken in connecting a beast from one context into that of another. Take note as well that where there is a kingdom, there must be a king, though a kingdom can span many kings in succession. Also, when the angel tells the apostle John that someone “was, is, will be”, it may be referenced from John’s time, which was the late first century A.D., or it could be a poetic way of describing existence. For example, “was, is, will come” may refer to eternity, while “was, is not, will come” may refer to an entity which, literally or figuratively, had lived, died, then come back to life.
… I will explain to you the secret of the woman and the seven-headed, ten horned beast that carries her. The beast you saw was, and is not now, and is about to ascend from the Abyss and then be taken into oblivion…
The seven heads are seven mountains the woman sits upon. These are seven kings: five have fallen, one is now, and the other has not yet come. But when he does, he will only remain for a short time. The beast that was and is not now, is an eighth that comes from the seven but is proceeding to oblivion.
The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet acquired a kingdom, but they will share royal jurisdiction with the beast for one hour. They will all be in agreement and give their power and jurisdiction to the beast. They will battle the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, since he is the Master of Masters and King of Kings, and those with him are appointed and chosen and trustworthy.
Focusing on the Beast and not the woman, we see that it existed before John’s day, did not exist in his day, and would exist once again after his day, though no indication is given as to the length of time from his day to the time of this Beast. It has 7 heads which are a line of 7 kings, 5 of whom had fallen before then. The 6th was alive in his day, and the 7th was to come later but only reign for a short time. Connected with the 7 but distinguished from them is the 8th and final king, who is equated with the Beast itself. However, this is a king rather than the Beast system, since “he” rather than “it” will “go to his destruction”.
The key to this entity is in vs. 8, which specifies that the Beast will ascend from the Abyss. This ascension takes place at the midpoint of the Tribulation, as either part of the 7th Trumpet or between it and the 1st Bowl. The “short time” is the 2nd half of the Tribulation, meaning 3-1/2 years. Yet this Beast had to have existed before the 1st century A.D., so it will be a king of the past who is brought back to life. It will be one who has a useless right eye and right arm (see Zech. 11:17 and Rev. 13:2–3), wounds which either happened in the distant past or will happen 3-1/2 years after enforcing the treaty of Dan. 9:27 (the one who enforces the treaty is the same one who breaks it and declares himself God). The latter seems more plausible since at first he will be mistaken by the people of Israel as the Messiah rather than the easily-identified “false shepherd” of Zech. 11:17. Perhaps he will claim to be King David, a scenario which could lead Israel to say “Peace and security!” and lay down their arms, setting the stage for Gog to attack them (Ezk. 38:8–12).
Now we focus on the woman riding the Beast. She is not the Beast itself but is using it and depending upon it. And for the Beast to carry her, she must have something it needs.
Rev. 17:1–7, 15–18
Then one of the seven Messengers with the bowls came and talked with me. He said, “Here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot sitting on many waters. The kings of the earth have been promiscuous with her, and the earth dwellers have been made drunk with the wine of her promiscuity.”
He carried me away in spirit to the desert, and there I saw a woman riding a red beast covered with slanderous names and having seven heads and ten horns. She was clothed in purple and red, and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She had in her hand a golden chalice filled with the disgusting filth of her promiscuity. On her forehead was written a secret name: “Babylon the Great, mother of harlots and the disgusting things of earth.”
I saw that she was drunk with the blood of the holy people and those who testify of Jesus, and I was aghast at the sight of her. Then the Messenger said to me, “Why are you shocked? I will explain to you the secret of the woman and the seven-headed, ten horned beast that carries her.”
Then he says to me, “The waters you saw which the harlot is sitting upon are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages. The ten horns you saw, and the beast, will despise the harlot; they will obliterate her, strip her naked, consume her flesh, and set her on fire. This is because God put it in their hearts to do his bidding, and to unite in giving their kingdom to the beast until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman you saw is the great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth.”
The woman has many detailed characteristics:
Remembering that the woman is neither the Beast nor any of the kings, but rather has been using and depending upon it/them, we can rule out her being a government. Yet she has been associated with the Beast and its kings, apparently for a long time, since the Beast has come to loathe and resent her. When her usefulness to the Beast has expired, it turns on her and utterly destroys her.
Since the angel is telling John what the woman symbolizes, we cannot take these characteristics as more symbolism. She has deceived the entire world through its rulers, she is in a desolate location, she is “queen of the world”, she is charged with all the debauchery and spiritual rebellion of the world, she is guilty of the blood of followers of Jesus and all God’s holy people, and she is a city with authority over all the world’s rulers.
Many who try to identify her seem to overlook the very clear characteristic of her being a city. But in the further discussion of her demise in the next chapter in Revelation, we see additional details about this city: a demon-infested place of great wealth and the hub of world-wide commerce, which includes not only luxuries but also human trafficking. Calling herself a queen matches Isaiah 47 almost exactly, and in that passage God mocks her by daring her to rely one last time on her sorceries and incantations, which of course means that she is steeped in the occult and the dark arts. That passage also calls her “virgin daughter of Babylon”, which is an important tie to the ancient Babylonian religion.
Though there are several possible candidates in the world today that might fit many of these characteristics, we must insist that the real candidate fill them all completely. Thus, we can rule out particular nations or ethnic groups, and her religious aspects must also match a literal city. But she is called Babylon for a reason, so we would expect her to use symbols, colors, and names associated with ancient Babylonian religion, even if the city is not literally ancient Babylon.
According to Harry Ironside in Babylonian Religion, the destruction of Babylon forced the religious practitioners to flee, and they first went to Pergamos (Pergamum)— exactly where Jesus said the throne of Satan was in the first century. From there they moved on to Italy and settled in Rome. Not the least bit coincidentally, this Roman headquarters used the symbols of Dagon, the fish god, and its priests wore fish-head hats and “the fisherman’s ring”.
So this entity is a city which is the seat of Babylonian religion, has spilled the most blood of followers of Jesus, is the hub of world commerce and human trafficking, and is the seductive power controlling all the world’s governments. But she is not the Beast, or “the son of perdition”, or Satan himself.
There is more than one Beast in Revelation, but the second one is more commonly known as the False Prophet; Revelation uses both names to describe this person. This one is not part of the Beast itself or its heads, but is the highest-ranking person below the Beast. He is in charge of worship of the first Beast and is the one who actually orders “the mark of the Beast”. At that point (the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th Week), the Beast has dispensed with the Harlot and now demands all the world’s worship as God.
We are shown two beasts in Rev. 13: one out of the sea (presumably the first Beast discussed earlier), and one out of the land. It is this passage which speaks of the first Beast being given Satanic authority and power, and that one of its heads (a king, not one person’s literal head) had received a mortal wound that was healed, which is why the whole world worships the dragon who gave the Beast its power. That is, this “head wound” is an individual king who was apparently (“it looked as if…”) killed and then raised to life again. This act is what fools the world into thinking the Beast must truly be God, by seemingly raising the dead.
Starting in vs. 11 we see the second beast, and this one is described as the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing: “two horns like a lamb but spoke like a dragon”. Combined with its role of forcing the world to worship the first Beast, this person is clearly a religious and governmental authority. Because of the description “lamb”, he clearly poses as a Christian leader in some sense. And both these Beasts are seen between the 7th Trumpet judgment and the 1st Bowl judgment, the midpoint of the seven years remaining from the prophecy in Daniel 9. (That and Revelation give several indications of the 3-1/2 year reign of this Beast.)
We have seen three major personages in prophecy yet to come: the Beast, the Harlot riding the Beast, and the False Prophet. Can we possibly tie them to entities or events in today’s world?
We certainly can, in many respects, but many uncertainties still remain. Prophecy passages not covered here give more details, with a particularly significant one in Ezekiel 38-39. This is where we read about Gog of Magog and its desire to plunder “a nation recovered from war, living securely, a people gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate.” The plunderers come “from the far north, you and many nations with you, all riding horses.” But God Himself destroys this vast army with an earthquake, plague, torrential rain, hailstones, and burning sulfur.
Daniel 11 speaks of “the king of the north”, but this may have been at least partially fulfilled in the past, as some details bear strong resemblance to historical events. Yet vs. 40 says, “At the time of the end the king of the south will engage him in battle.” Many see a break between vss. 35 and 36, since vs. 35 has the phrase “until the time of the end”, so it could well mean that vs. 36-45 are yet future. And Revelation 16 speaks of “the kings of the east” coming to battle at the 6th Bowl judgment.
So we have kings of the north, south, and east— but what of the west? Does this omission imply that the Beast’s kingdom will arise from the western world? Daniel’s prophecy of 70 Weeks implies that “prince that shall come” is the first Beast of Revelation, and given the scope of war and battle from the other three directions, it would seem that the only place left for the kingdom of the Beast is the west. Keep in mind also that though the Harlot is associated with Babylon’s religion and a powerful city, the Beast will hate her and destroy her. So it seems fairly certain that the west is not Babylon, but it may well be the kingdom of the Beast.