Prof. Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa (November 2011)
In Daniel 7, four successive world empires which form part of the times of the Gentiles since the Babylonian exile of Israel, are discussed. These were all forerunners of the Antichrist’s end-time world empire as they were permeated with the same spirit of rebellion against God and His kingdom. They were the Babylonian Empire that was represented by a lion, the Medo-Persian Empire (the bear), the Greek Empire (the leopard), and the Roman Empire (a vicious animal with ten horns on its head). The symbolism in Daniel 7 ties up with Daniel 2:31-45 in which the same four empires are depicted as a great image which was revealed to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream. The head of the image was of gold (Babylonian Empire), its chest and arms of silver (Medo-Persian Empire), its belly and thighs of bronze (Greek Empire), its legs of iron (Roman Empire), and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay (the end-time, restored Roman Empire of the Antichrist).
The fact that the Roman Empire was never conquered and subjected by another world empire, explains the fact why only four world empires are mentioned since the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and that these four will be revived as part of the end-time empire of the Antichrist. Although the Roman Empire ceased to exist as a political entity in the 5th century AD, the influence of Europe continued throughout the centuries, leading to the colonisation of large parts of the world by European nations. In the end-time, the ancient Roman Empire with its strong European base will be revived and again become the major power block in the world. This is already happening.
It is also significant that the Roman Empire gained control over the territories of the preceding three empires, i.e. the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Greek Empires, and for that reason the revival of the Roman Empire will also constitute a revival of these other world empires. All indications are that the Antichrist’s future world government will be controlled from the Middle East, from a region that formed part of all four of the previous world empires.
In view of these facts it is obvious why the Antichrist is depicted as a composite beast with symbols derived from all four world empires, i.e. a mouth of a lion, the feet of a bear, the body of a leopard, and a head of a ferocious animal with ten horns on its head (Rev. 13:1-2). He will, therefore, not only revive the Roman Empire but at the same time also the Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Greek Empires. All four of them were strongly focused upon the Middle East and, among others, tried to annihilate Israel. When the Antichrist and his empire will be destroyed, all his predecessors who were conquered and assimilated by the Roman Empire, will also be finally destroyed. This fact ties up with Daniel 2:44-45, where the great image which represents all four these empires, will be destroyed at the same moment when it is struck by the Rock (Jesus Christ), who will establish His own kingdom in the place of these kingdoms.
Daniel 7:11 refers to the destruction of the Antichrist during the second coming of Christ. In this verse he describes the fourth beast with the ten horns on its head, and another little horn (the Antichrist) that arose among them (Dan. 7:7-8, 20-21). The ten horns refers to the Roman Empire which will be restored in the end-time during the rise of the Antichrist (the little horn), after which this empire will be destroyed by Christ, bringing an end to the times of the Gentiles. After that, Christ’s kingdom, in which Israel will play a major part, will be revealed and established on earth.
Daniel 7:12 contains an interesting reference to the first three beasts of Daniel 7 – the lion (Babylonia), the bear (Medo-Persia), and the leopard (Greece). The NKJV says that “their lives will be prolonged for a season and a time”, but the NIV rendering comes closer to the basic meaning: “The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.” That seems to suggest that the first three had physically lost their authority, but that their spirit and nature (their anti-God and anti-Israel ideology) lived on in their conquerors. Their final destruction will be concurrent with the destruction of their ultimate representative, the Antichrist, at the end of the tribulation period.
At the time when the European Union represents most of the Mediterranean countries, as well as those in the Middle East and North Africa, the Antichrist will arise from within the boundaries of the ancient Roman Empire and consolidate three of the Empire’s provinces (or countries) under his personal control (Dan. 7:8). That will probably be Arab countries to the north and northeast of Israel, among which will be Syria and Iraq. This development is clearly suggested by the fact that, from Israel’s point of view, the Antichrist will also be known as the “Assyrian” and “king of the north” (Isa. 10:12-14; Dan. 11:31-45). We can anticipate the future extension of the European Union into the Middle East in order to strengthen their economic interests by the inclusion of oil-producing states, and also by trying to bring peace to one of the politically most volatile regions on earth.
Turkey has already applied for EU membership, while America’s gradual withdrawal from the Middle East also forces other countries in this region to rely on Europe for military protection and development aid. The military involvement of EU countries in the liberation of Libya has paved the way for strong economic and diplomatic ties between Arab countries and Europe in the new geo-political dispensation which is presently emerging.
Various factors are prompting the revival of the ancient world empires. It is evident that elements from all four the previous world empires are awakening from the dust of an almost forgotten past. It is also evident that a serious power vacuum is prevalent in this region, as well as ominous economic problems which are largely the consequence of poor government. Consider the following developments in the regions of the four ancient world empires:
Europe is indeed unified to form the world’s most important power block, but at the same time the need for strong political and economic leadership is daily increasing. This is a daunting task in a culturally diverse region where the different nations are like iron and clay that cannot firmly bond. Furthermore, Europe in its entirety is afflicted by a debt crisis which was mainly caused by poor governments that allowed the escalation of public debt to extremely high levels. Overspending continued unabated, while deficits on budget accounts were covered by loans and the issuing of more government bonds that were mainly purchased by foreign banks. The banks wrongly concluded that these bonds were safe investments with a guaranteed yield, since Western governments have always been able to settle their debt.
But all of a sudden there are various highly developed countries that are unable to settle their debt, and the downgrading of their creditworthiness came too late to avert or correct the present problems. Greece’s debt is so enormous that it threatens to drive the entire euro-zone to the brink of bankruptcy. But Greece is not Europe’s only problem – Ireland and Portugal have already been declared bankrupt, and at present Italy is the following country after Greece to apply for an even bigger aid package. Who will raise the money? At a meeting of European leaders on 27th October 2011 banks were asked to write off 50% of the debt of Greece, and continued pressure of this nature can cripple them financially.
Many centuries ago, Italy was head of the mighty Roman Empire that controlled great wealth, but at present they are a struggling country with an annual growth rate of only 1%. The population is rapidly aging as few children are born, which means that less young people are entering the labour market. For decades now, Italy has had the most unstable government in Europe as they move from one shaky coalition government to the next. Scandals among the elite are the order of the day, and within an unstable society of this nature criminal elements such as the Mafia are flourishing.
The fears which are stirred up by Italy’s threatening bankruptcy hovers like a sword across the whole of Europe. But that is not all, as many new problems are in the offing. Spain, with the next biggest economy after Italy, also finds itself in the troubled waters of an unmanageable high debt level. The whole situation is rapidly spinning out of control, and the menacing disaster of a total economic collapse in Europe is only postponed by further emergency measures. France, Germany and Britain cannot carry the burden of the escalating debt burden, and have problems of their own in trying to cope with poor growth rates, rapidly ageing communities, and the influx of unskilled immigrants who put further pressure on the economy.
Religiously and morally speaking, “post-Christian Europe” is caught up in an even bigger crisis, and that accounts for the great falling away to immoral lifestyles as well as the rapid expansion of non-Christian religions such as Islam. For a long time now, Europe has not been having good political, economic and religious leaders with a constructive vision for the future, and for that reason they promote a new world order in which all the struggling countries can pursue a common destiny. There are however so many crippled, hanger-on countries that must be carried by their stronger partners, that any further progress has become nigh impossible. Europe now waits for a dynamic leader to appear on the scene and change the socio-political and economic landscape in such a way that a new beginning and a new future can be offered to all.
According to the Bible, such a leader will indeed arise, but he will be the Antichrist. His solutions and false peace will only last for 3½ years, after which he will institute the most draconian military dictatorship of all time to prevent his own downfall (Matt. 24:15-21; Op. 6:1-8; 13:1-18).
The once mighty Greece that was built up by Alexander the Great to become a much feared world empire, has deteriorated into such a lamentable condition that this country has become the scorn of the international community. On non-Western TV networks (particularly Russia Today and Al Jazeera) experts openly say that no aid package, irrespective of its size, will be able to save Greece from its dilemma. Their economy has completely snapped, there is no investment confidence in the country, and no bank will buy government bonds from them again. Bailout funds that are now allocated to them are only used to pay the reduced salaries and pensions of officials, and to maintain certain basic services. The drastically cut income of people leads to a reduced demand in the economy and that, together with the drying up of foreign investments, have contributed to the death-bells being rung for the economy.
European banks are still reeling under the decision imposed upon them to write off 50% of Greece’s debt, and that has caused a public flaring up of tempers against Greece for their share in the problems of Europe. In the meantime, more countries have become beggars, and that will weaken the likelihood for Greece to survive. The inevitable result of this situation is interior anarchy and a lack of strong government, since any government that imposes further austere measures that weaken the financial position of the people, is utterly rejected by them.
The Antichrist will temporarily succeed in offering Greece a better future, but not for long. He will most likely arise from the Syrian/Babylonian region which was, at a certain stage, also under the control of ancient Greece. But in these countries the anarchy and chaos are even more serious, and cause a political vacuum as the present governments are rejected by their subjects. Syria is being drawn into a full-scale civil war, and many refugees are fleeing the country, among others to neighbouring Turkey.
Almost nothing has remained in present-day Iraq of the mighty Babylonian Empire that was initially established by Nimrod and, under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, restored as the leading kingdom in the world. America’s intervention in Iraq was a disaster, and only precipitated the chaos and bloodshed in the country. The US troop withdrawal from Iraq has now reached its final stage, and will render Iraq an easy target for invasion by its bloodthirsty neighbour, Iran. There is also no end in sight to the ongoing faction fights between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in this country.
Iraq is the heartland of the ancient Babylonian Empire and, according to biblical prophecies, this country will play an important role in the end-time. The Antichrist will unite Iraq, Syria and neighbouring countries, possibly also incorporating the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, thus making it a strong power block within the broader context of an expanded European Union.
The beast of Revelation 13 will have the feet of a bear, which is an indication that, together with the restoration of the Roman, Greek and Babylonian Empires, he will also revive the Medo-Persian Empire. Persia is the present Iran, and this country is wholeheartedly committed to the antichristian agenda for an Islamic world order which is utterly hostile towards Israel, the West, and Christianity. It will suit the Antichrist well to actively involve Iran with his plans. President Ahmadinejad has, on different occasions, called for genocide against Israel, while also demanding the immediate cessation of Western intervention in the affairs of Islamic countries. According to Ezekiel 38 and 39, Iran will also play a major role in a future Russo-Arab invasion of Israel.
The complexity of the Antichrist as a person who will be associated with all four the ancient world empires, suggests that he will arise from a region which was part of all four of the previous world empires, and that can only be the Middle East. The Antichrist cannot come from Italy, France or England and yet, as the Assyrian or king of the north, be linked to the Greek, Babylonian or Medo-Persian Empires.
The important political and economic developments in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, coincide with equally significant developments in the Unites States. The credit limit of the US has been raised to $17 trillion, making it imperative for them to drastically cut government expenditure. This situation is aggravated by other factors which also thwart the image of the US. There is growing disillusionment about America’s intervention in other countries, as well as increased pressure to withdraw their troops from foreign countries. All these developments contribute towards the fact that the US is loosing its status as the leading super power in the world, and the inevitability that Europe, in association with the Middle East, will take over this role.
America’s economic cul-de-sac is even more serious than that of Europe, since there is a smaller probability of external assistance for them. Their government is compelled to reduce government expenditure, but the more this strategy is adhered to the lower their economic growth will become, with the inevitable consequence of unemployment and political instability. Many of the Americans think that Obama is solely to be blamed for their present troubles. But he is only the most recent of a long line of American presidents and their administrations that recklessly overspent, granted too many loans, and too easily wrote off the very high debt burden of other countries. That was a certain recipe for disaster.
The world is now ready for the rider on the white horse as described in Revelation 6:2. That will be the Antichrist who will, for a short time, succeed in stopping wars and revolutions in the world, thus allowing for the demobilisation of troops everywhere. He will also introduce a new, centrally controlled, monetary system for the world (Rev. 13:16-18). The Antichrist will establish a world government under his personal leadership: “And he was given authority over every tribe, tongue and nation” (Rev. 13:7).
The Antichrist will also forge a close alliance of world religions, in which all of them will be obliged to worship and honour him as their common messiah. All people of all religious persuasions will marvel at what he will achieve in a short space of time: “And all the world marvelled and followed the beast ... and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast?” (Rev. 13:3-4).
After only a few years things will go horribly wrong, leading to opposition against his rule. He will institute a military dictatorship and rule by military decrees. The rider on the white horse will suddenly be replaced by the rider on the red horse of warfare, followed by the black horse of rationing and the pale horse of death (Rev. 6:3-8).
The world is heading for a “great tribulation” which will be unequalled in history (Matt. 24:21), but which will be deceptively introduced by the false peace and unity of an antichristian new world order. All people are now awaiting this development in order to escape their present woes. True Christians, however, should not await that dispensation, but the sudden coming of the heavenly Bridegroom: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).