5.1 Where Are You?
Volume 5: Conceptual Symbols—Chapter 1
Where Are You?
Immediately after Adam and Eve had fallen into sin (well, Eve jumped) by breaking the one “rule” God had asked them to keep, they felt uncomfortable in His presence, so they tried to hide themselves. “Then Yahweh, God, called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9) It wasn’t that He didn’t know their whereabouts. Yahweh merely wanted them to understand that they had moved away from Him. They had been living in Innocence, but they had packed their bags and moved to the Land of Guilt.
He still asks us, “Where are you?” Okay, the Garden of Eden is no longer an option, but where are we now? Where have we chosen to live? Are we as near to Yahweh as we can get, like Abel or Seth, or have we chosen to live in the land of Nod (literally: “wandering”) like Cain? My point is that Cain, after killing his brother Abel, wanted nothing to do with those who revered Yahweh their Creator. After all, they were a constant and disconcerting reminder that reconciliation with God must be done on His terms, not on ours.
“Where are we?” Are we in bondage in the world (code named: Egypt) or have we entered the Promised Land (a symbolic euphemism for the mortal life of a believer). Or, for that matter, are we still wandering around in the Wilderness, trying to decide which is worse—Pharaoh’s slave drivers (a familiar peril, at least) or the legendary “giants in the Land” (i.e., the terror of having to live by faith in God’s provision day by day in an unknown environment).
As it turns out, many of the place-names mentioned in scripture have symbolic significance. (Big surprise, right?) They all have “history” with God’s chosen people, Israel—either as neighbors, sometime-adversaries, or outright conquerors. Meanwhile, Japan, Scandinavia, Botswana, and Brazil are missing from Scripture. Sort of. They’re not specifically “named,” and when they are referenced, it’s in catch-all phrases like “the nations” or “the coastlands.” But they are on God’s mind, for they’re home to humans—the object of His love. They’re just not included in His symbol lexicon.
“Home to humans.” That’s where we need to begin. The planet we live upon is fine-tuned—to a degree none of us can remotely comprehend—to be the perfect “Goldilocks” environment for human beings to inhabit. Our home planet, and indeed, the entire universe, was no accident: it didn’t just “happen.” Rather, it was purposely designed and built by Yahweh: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) That is, at a specific moment in the measurable past, He made time-space, matter-energy, and the laws of physics that would govern it all. Moreover, He created our world to support life, which He then made in profuse variety and abundance. If we don’t give the Creator credit for having created our home, we’ll never know who we are, never mind where. But the question we need to ponder first is why He did so.
Why would a God who existed for eternity past (granted, a concept we cannot begin to comprehend) suddenly decide to make a physical universe? The answer lies in His nature: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him…. We love Him because He first loved us.” (I John 4:16, 19) Love needs an object in order to come to fruition. But hadn’t Yahweh already made a race of immortal spiritual creatures—whom we call angels—before He created the cosmos? Indeed. He asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?...” There’s that question again. “Who laid [the world’s] cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 6-7) The angels were there to celebrate with their creator when He created everything else (whether we’re talking about the Big Bang, or merely our own solar system). So Yahweh was not lacking for companionship.
But are angelic beings candidates for the objects of God’s love? Everything we know about them argues against this idea. Yes, they’re sentient beings, immortal, intelligent, and awesomely powerful. But they haven’t been given permission to “say no” to Yahweh—they do not have what we call “free will.” They are simply servants of God. If one is not free to reject God’s love, then accepting it is a meaningless concept. Yes, Satan rebelled against God, apparently taking one third of the angelic host with him (see Revelation 12:4). But it was never His prerogative to do any such thing. It’s like a soldier in the army openly revolting against his commander-in-chief: it’s possible, but not legal—and the negative consequence are inevitable. The only reason the devil is still free in this world to “walk about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” is that God allows it: Satan’s freedom encourages us to find shelter in our God, to be sober-minded, vigilant, and firm in our faith (see I Peter 5:7-9). Satan’s temporary freedom is what makes our moral choices crystal clear.
But as Job could attest, Yahweh keeps Satan on a short leash, putting limits on how much damage he can do. There is a vast disparity between the devil’s aspirations and his actual destiny. Isaiah reminds us that Satan declared, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.” But the reality of the matter is, “Yet you shall be [future tense] brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, Who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?’…You are cast out of your grave like an abominable branch, like the garment of those who are slain, thrust through with a sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a corpse trodden underfoot.” (Isaiah 14:14-17, 19) Never picture Satan as “the king of hell.” When Yahweh finally incarcerates him, he will merely be one of the inmates, notable only for the height from which he has fallen, and the depth of his depravity.
So angelic beings were (technically) not suitable as recipients of God’s love. For that, He had to create a race of creatures endowed with free will, the privilege of volition—who could (if they chose) reciprocate the love of their Creator. The “problem” is, if they had the legal option of refusing to share a loving relationship with God, some of them surely would. In that case, God would be duty bound to honor their poor choices, cutting them off from the source of Life itself. The solution, then, was the most counterintuitive of innovations: mortality. If people’s bodies died at the end of their earthly lifespans, no one would have to live forever separated from the Source of life—like spiritual zombies. But if God made this race of “choosers” physical beings, not spiritual ones (like angels), then some infrastructure was going to be necessary: man and his world would have to be made of elements that didn’t even exist yet. And that’s where we pick up the story in Genesis 1:1—the creation of the physical universe that was required for one reason only: so that God could love people, and we could love Him in return.
Yahweh has gone to ridiculous lengths to make a home for us. Just how big is this universe in which we live? According to one source (Cornell University), “The density of matter in the universe is about 3 x 10-30 g/cm3, which means that it is 300 billion billion billion times less dense than water. This includes the contribution of dark matter: the density of luminous matter (which we see as stars and galaxies) is only about one-tenth of this figure. The size of the observable universe is about 14 billion light years across, and using the above value of density, we can calculate a mass for the universe (including dark and luminous matter) of about 3 x 1055 g, which is roughly 25 billion galaxies the size of the Milky Way.” That’s a lot of expenditure for very little return on investment, if you ask me. But Yahweh was willing to do it in order to share His love with us. For some unfathomable reason, He thinks we’re worth it.
And that’s not all. How many species inhabit the earth? Somewhere between a million and a half and a trillion, depending on who you ask. But how many of these organisms have a spiritual nature as well as a physical one? Just one. Us—People. All sentient animals have souls that make their bodies alive, of course. Separating the soul from the body is what we call “death.” But man, and man alone, also has something called the neshamah in Hebrew—the “breath of life” (first mentioned in Genesis 2:7) that makes possible the indwelling of God’s Spirit. It is what gives us free will; it is what defines us as having been “made in the image and likeness of God.”
With all that life out there, one thing is certain: our home planet was designed and built to support it. “For thus says Yahweh, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain [that is, to be empty], who formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am Yahweh, and there is no other.’” (Isaiah 45:18) I realize it’s an argument from silence, but there is no hint here that He created other worlds to be inhabited—to host and foster physical life. (If there is mortal life elsewhere, it is certain that our Creator put it there.) But as far as we know, only our world, out of gazillions of planets in the universe, has any life on it at all. Yahweh, it appears, has put all of his eggs in one basket: ours. And although in these Last Days we may joke about the search for “intelligent life” on planet Earth, the fact is that we humans are the only species we know of that is capable of perceiving our Creator, of communing with Him, appreciating Him, and being made eternally alive through the indwelling of His Spirit.
Many people of course, like Cain, don’t want to hear it. So they retreat into fables about life on earth being the product of an endless string of unbelievably fortuitous accidents, one after another, without design, purpose, goal, or meaning. Who needs a Creator? Beginning with the simplest one-celled organism (though the spontaneous jump from inert to living is clearly impossible), they believe—without evidence, much less proof—that the complex biosphere we see about us just evolved, becoming more and more intricate with each passing generation. (Of course, we now know that even the simplest living thing on earth is incredibly complex. Cells are not just “blobs of protoplasm,” as they used to think. Oops.) Then they look at the night sky, and assume that because our galaxy and universe are so vast, the same unlikely process must have taken place innumerable times elsewhere. And they think I have too much faith!
Though never actually possible, the spontaneous generation of life might have seemed plausible if it had an infinite amount of time in which to develop. But we now know that the universe did have a beginning: 13.73 billion years ago, as observed from the earth. (If your point of view is where the “Big Bang” took place—that is, not here on earth—and if you account for the speed of light, relativity, and the expansion of the universe, this works out to precisely six days, as reported in Genesis 1. See Dr. Gerald L. Schroeder’s classic work The Science of God for the data.) Our own solar system was formed about 4.3 billion years back. But a mere 400 million years (or less) passed between the “ball of molten rock” stage and the first fossil evidence of the appearance of life on Earth—a blink of an eye as these things go. Thus the evolutionists have a terrible problem: their own science has proved their timeline to be impossible. Even the idea of life beginning spontaneously in another galaxy and somehow “seeding” the earth doesn’t have remotely enough time to support it.
Why then do they cling so tenaciously to their unworkable theory? It’s quite simple, really. The only plausible alternative (to put it in the least “offensive” terms for them) is that an “Intelligent Designer” is responsible for everything that exists. Let’s face it, guys: we’re talking about God, and specifically, the God of the Bible: Yahweh. (Alas, you’ve got to spell it out these days. If you want to check out the “competition,” research the Islamic creation story. It’s quite entertaining. In the Hadith of al Tabari, Muhammad said, “When Allah wanted to create the creation, He brought forth smoke from the water. The smoke hovered loftily over it. He called it ‘heaven.’ Then He dried out the water and made it earth. He split it and made it seven earths on Sunday. He created the earth upon a big fish, that being the fish mentioned in the Qur’an. By the Pen [the first created thing], the fish was in the water. The water was upon the back of a small rock. The rock was on the back of an angel. The angel was on a big rock. The big rock was in the wind. The fish became agitated. As a result, the earth quaked, so Allah anchored the mountains and made it stable. This is why the Qur’an says, ‘Allah made for the earth firmly anchored mountains, lest it shake you up.’”)
The bottom line: the “Intelligent Designer” can only be Yahweh, the same God who’s got standards of conduct and morality the atheists have no desire or intention of keeping, who knew that His beloved Adam had sinned, and in mercy asked him “Where are you?” He’s the same God who had a solution to our “sin problem” ready and waiting—both in the symbolic short-term sense (the innocent-animal skin clothing), and in the literal long-term sense (the atoning sacrifice of His Messiah/Son, Yahshua).
As I said, the universe—and planet Earth in particular—are fine-tuned for life. People might complain (in their hubris) that God is awfully inefficient. Why expend almost 14 billion years to create an environment for a species (man) that has only been around for six thousand years—and whose collective genome is already fraying around the edges, making his normal individual lifespan these days less than a century? The simple answer is that the heavier elements our physical bodies are made of are created in second-generation stars. An Intelligent Designer would know that you can’t “make things” out of helium and hydrogen alone. You’ll also need oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, sulfur, and scores of other building blocks found nature. And for that, you need immense amounts of time and space, with stars forming, living through their life-cycles, and then collapsing—creating the heavier elements in the process.
Let’s look at carbon as a test case—the one element that, above all others, makes life possible. It’s ironic that atheists have declared war on carbon, piously claiming that it will be the death of us all. (In truth, it’s all a matter of greed: carbon dioxide has been declared the villain, not because it is such a danger to the environment, but because it can be measured and taxed.) But the fact is, all life on earth is carbon based: everything we are, and everything we eat, depends on carbon. No other element has carbon’s capacity to form the broad range of complex molecular structures that life requires.
Astrophysicist Hugh Ross writes, “Researchers have found that the quantity of carbon must be carefully balanced between just enough and not too much, because carbon, though essential for life, can also be destructive to life…. One of the wonders of the Earth is that it is sufficiently carbon-rich and carbon-poor. It carries enough carbon for life, but not so much as to interfere with life’s atmospheric needs, such as the appropriate pressure and density for efficient operation of lungs and a temperature range (and variability) that supports a wide diversity of active, advanced species.”
So it may come as an epiphany to discover that, by God’s design, carbon comprises only a tiny fraction—0.0007%—of the mass of the universe. As I noted elsewhere, “The air we breathe has so little CO2 in it (comparatively speaking), it’s almost silly. By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases, including a varying amount of water vapor, around 1% on average. Let that sink in: the earth’s atmosphere contains less than four one-hundredths of one percent carbon dioxide…. CO2 is a natural—even essential—component of our atmosphere. All green plants depend upon its presence, utilizing it in the process of photosynthesis to replenish the oxygen in the atmosphere.”
We’ve looked at why the universe needs to be so massive, old, and expansive to support life. But now, let us look at it on the micro level. Here too Yahweh has fine-tuned the universe to support life—to an unbelievable degree. Hugh Ross again: “Anyone who hasn’t had the privilege of studying astrophysics may not realize that the universe must be as massive as it is or human life would not be possible. The density of protons and neutrons in the universe relates to the cosmic mass, or mass density. That density determines how much hydrogen, the lightest of the elements, fused into heavier elements during the first few minutes of cosmic existence. And the amount of heavier elements determines how much additional heavy element production occurs later in the nuclear furnaces of stars.
“If the density of protons and neutrons were significantly lower (than enough to convert about 1 percent of the universe’s mass into stars), then nuclear fusion would proceed less efficiently. As a result, the cosmos would never be capable of generating elements heavier than helium—elements like carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium, which are essential for any kind of physical life. On the other hand, if the density of protons and neutrons were slightly higher (enough to convert significantly more than 1 percent of the mass of the universe into stars), nuclear fusion would be too productive. All the hydrogen in the universe would rapidly fuse into elements as heavy as, or heavier than, iron. Again, life essential elements (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc.), including hydrogen, would not exist….
“If no other density factors influence the expansion of the universe at certain epochs in cosmic history, its mass density must have been as finely tuned as one part in 1060 to allow for the possible existence of physical life at any time or place within the entirety of the universe. This degree of fine-tuning is so great that it’s as if right after the universe’s beginning someone could have destroyed the possibility of life within it by subtracting a single dime’s mass from the whole of the observable universe, or adding a single dime’s mass to it.”
There is much more to it, of course. It only gets “worse” for proponents of the “grand cosmic coincidence” theory. (I’d highly recommend reading Dr. Ross’s book, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is.) The bottom line: if you’re here on planet Earth, you should thank Yahweh for going to such extreme lengths to make your physical life possible. But remember: you’re mortal by design. Use your time wisely, beginning with honoring the God who gave you life.
Having created this unique and wonderful planet, Yahweh proceeded to fill it with a myriad of living things, from viruses and bacteria, to grass and trees, to animals of every conceivable description. When the time was right, He created the human race: Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:26-28)
Mankind’s job number one was to populate the planet. Job number two was to “have dominion” over all of the animals God had placed here—everything, you’ll notice, except for other human beings. Adam was told that his food would come from “every tree of the garden,” save one. So “having dominion” didn’t mean hunting, killing, or eating the animals. It means studying them, understanding them, and caring for them. God “brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.” (Genesis 2:19-20) Humanity had been given a job to do, and it was totally benign.
But then we sinned, and the whole paradigm changed. After their sin, Adam and his bride had become aware of their naked state, and had sewed themselves fig-leaf garments to try to deal with their shame. It was the world’s first instance of “religion”—of mankind attempting to cover his sin with means of his own invention. It hadn’t worked, and they knew it. So then they tried to hide from God, prompting Him to ask, “Where are you?” It was at this point that Yahweh introduced the concept of sacrificing the life of the innocent to atone for the sins of the guilty, making coverings for Adam and Eve from the skin of an animal He had purposely slain as appeasement for their sin.
It was the first of scores of similar examples that would be introduced in scripture (mostly in the Law of Moses), all of which turned out to be previews—prophecies—of the ultimate, definitive act of atonement: God’s own innocent Son sacrificing Himself upon Calvary’s cross in order that you and I might be reconciled with our Creator. As with Adam and Eve in the Garden, our part in the whole affair would simply be to put on the garment of sacrifice—trusting God’s promise to render it efficacious in covering our sin.
The whole point of the Bible is to illustrate and illuminate our Creator’s plan and purpose in reconciling fallen humanity to Himself. Yahweh used a number of modes of communication to achieve this, which is to say, He was less than straightforward in revealing how He would redeem us. First, He used prophecy, telling the serpent (Satan), “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15) It would take us thousands of years to figure out precisely what He meant by this. But by the time it came to pass (all of it except Satan’s ultimate “bruising”), literally hundreds of prophecies had been given that, when taken together, pointed to one man (Yahshua—the promised Seed of the woman) to the exclusion of all others.
Then He used “types,” specialized prophecies in which godly men acted out (whether they knew it or not) various facets of God’s plan for our salvation. Adam and Eve put on the innocent-animal skins Yahweh had made to cover their shame. Enoch and Elijah were raptured, prior to judgment falling upon their societies. Noah was shown how to escape the coming flood, and Lot was removed from Sodom before God’s wrath fell upon it—both pictures of how He intends to separate His people from the depravity of the world in the Last Days—again, in anticipation of judgment. Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac, the son of promise, illustrated how Yahweh would offer up His own Son, Yahshua, to atone for the sin of the world. And Joseph, through the betrayal by his brothers, became a slave in Egypt, and then (through false accusation) a prisoner, only to become the second most powerful man in the country—the savior of Egypt and everyone who had betrayed him.
Each of these “types” revealed something about God’s solution to our self-imposed curse. In each instance, the lesson for us was to trust Him with our destiny, no matter how convoluted or unexpected the journey might seem. And how are we to demonstrate our trust? Through obedience. It wouldn’t have done any good for Noah to “believe” God’s word that a flood was coming if he had not been obedient in building the ark to God’s specifications. But here’s the thing about obedience. Our heart’s attitude—not so much our flawless performance—is what counts most. I have it on good authority (just kidding: I’m making this up for the sake of illustration) that Noah’s ark ended up being half a cubit too short. Technically, that’s sin—failing to meet God’s exacting standards. But Noah didn’t have a 300 cubit tape measure: he just came as close as he could. And Yahweh honored his sincere effort and obedience, even though he might have fallen a little short of perfection.
Later, when God called Abram out of the pagan society in which he dwelled, he too, though generally obedient, failed to keep the exact letter of God’s instructions. Yahweh had told him, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3) Abe sort of missed the part about “leaving his father’s house behind,” and took his nephew Lot with him—the son of his late brother Haran, whom he thought of as his own surrogate son (especially since his wife Sarai hadn’t yet borne him any children). Again, this was technically “sin,” but God didn’t disqualify Abram because of his mistake. Rather, He simply made it clear through the narrative that bringing Lot with him caused Abe all sorts of unnecessary complications—things that would end up haunting his family for millennia. Granted, there are valuable lessons to be learned through the story: we usually learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.
Anyway, it is with the call of Abram that our systematic study of the symbolically significant places in the Bible begins. It was through his line that God’s most sweeping and detailed mode of communication concerning His plan for our salvation would be delivered. I’m speaking, of course, of the Torah—the “Law of Moses”—the Instructions that revealed something about our Redeemer between every line, if only we’d open our eyes. These Instructions were given to one nation: Israel.
By my count, 283 times in the Torah we read, “And Yahweh said to Moses, speak to the Children of Israel, and say…” or words to that effect. That is, Israel alone was instructed to keep the precepts of the Torah. Yahweh never issued a comprehensive code of Law to the gentiles, nor were the gentiles asked to keep the Torah (unless, of course, they wished to live as Israelites in the Land of Promise). And yet, the Tanakh itself incessantly informs us that gentiles (i.e., non-Jews) will share in Israel’s blessing. (See Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 46:10, Psalm 47, Psalm 102:15, Isaiah 49:6, Zechariah 2:10-13, etc.) It turns out that flawless performance of the Torah’s myriad precepts was never the point, exactly: they were never intended to be, in and of themselves, the means of salvation, the path toward reconciliation with Yahweh. Rather, the Instructions were designed to be a collective prophecy of what Yahshua the Messiah would accomplish on behalf of mankind—the atonement of our sins: first by being the only human being who ever kept the Instructions perfectly (defining Him as “innocent”), and then by offering Himself up as (as John the Baptist put it) “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Let us, then, begin our study with nations (originally, family groups) that seem to have metaphorical implications attached to them in scripture, and work our way down to individual cities. (I realize there might be some overlap in these concepts.) We’ll also explore groups of nations or cities that God’s Word has suggested that we study as collective concepts—symbolically linked in some way. Finally, we’ll look into miscellaneous geographical entities—mountains, rivers, compass directions, etc. Throughout our study, let us try to keep our eye on God’s original question: “Where are you?”
The Table of Nations
After the flood of Noah, his three sons’ families repopulated the earth. The record of the first few generations are presented in Genesis 10. “Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.” (Genesis 10:1) I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail here, except to point out a few nations that are subsequently singled out in scripture as interacting with Israel—usually in a negative way. Starting from the ark’s resting place in the mountains of Ararat (and within a few generations, the plain of Shinar—the Tigris-Euphrates valley, a.k.a. Mesopotamia—a bit to the south) the nations spread out across the world.
“The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.” (Genesis 10:2-5) Japheth’s offspring (in very rough terms) moved north and west—toward modern-day Europe, including Turkey. Some notable things about the line of Japheth: Kittim is associated with Cyprus. Tarshish became known for their broad-ranging commercial interests; they are geographically linked with Southern Spain. “The kingdom of Ashkenaz was first associated with the Scythian region, then later with the Slavic territories, and, from the 11th century onwards, with Germany and northern Europe.”—Wikipedia. Javan appears to be the progenitor of the Greeks.
Magog was the name associated (by Josephus) with the later Scythian empire, a warlike and nomadic folk who flourished between the 8th and 4th centuries B.C. Jerome indicated that the Scythians were “fierce and innumerable, who live beyond the Caucasus and the Lake Maeotis [that smallish lake just north of the Black Sea], and near the Caspian Sea, and spread out even onward to India.” They eventually covered a huge territory stretching across southern Eurasia from the Danube River to the borders of China. Magog is notable for being the “home” of Gog, the Islamic warlord of Ezekiel 38-39, who will assemble a coalition of nations to attack Israel during the first half of the Tribulation. I have come to the conclusion that Gog will be the leader of Iran—the one who will self-engineer the fulfillment of the Islamic prophecies concerning “the Mahdi.” But it is noteworthy that no fewer than four other Japhethite tribes listed as Gog’s allies (Gomer, Tubal, Meshech, and Togarmah) are associated with places in or near modern-day Turkey. By the way, the “Rosh” mentioned in some translations of Ezekiel 38:3 isn’t a nation at all, but merely means chief, or head. It does not mean Russia.
The children of Ham migrated mostly south and west—toward Africa and Arabia. “The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabtechah; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan….” Mizraim is Egypt. South of Mizraim, extending indefinitely down the southern Nile River valley, was Cush (sometimes mis-translated “Ethiopia”). Cush eventually populated all of sub-Saharan Africa. And stretching westward from Egypt/Mizraim across northern Africa was Put (or Phut), sometimes rendered “Libya.” Canaan, or course, lent his name to the Levant—that is, the land hugging the Eastern Mediterranean, from Turkey down to Egypt. This effectively made them geographically separate from their other Hamite brothers. Sheba settled at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula (today’s Yemen), and Dedan was farther north, along the peninsula’s western coastline (though most of what is now Arabia was settled by the descendants of Shem).
“Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before Yahweh.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city)….” Nimrod was the “Antichrist” of his day, the first demagogue, warlord, and founder of false religious practice in the post-flood world. He, his wife Semiramis, and her son, Tammuz, were the basis of virtually every pagan tradition in the ancient world: the names changed by region, but they can all be traced back to this false “trinity,” Nimrod the father, Tammuz the son (also marketed as the sun god), and Semiramis, the fertility- and moon-goddess figure. (See The End of the Beginning, chapter 14: “Mystery Babylon,” for more information.)
The Philistines, who gave the returning Israelites so much trouble, were the offspring of Mizraim, that is, Egypt: “Mizraim begot Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, and Casluhim (from whom came the Philistines and Caphtorim).” (Genesis 10:6-14) As a matter of fact, most of the adversaries faced by God’s people (that is, of the called-out line of Abram/Abraham) were descendants of Ham, and more specifically, of his son Canaan, at least until the monarchy.
Why did God promise to give all of the Canaanite territory to Abraham, dragging him first from Ur of the Chaldees north to Haran, and then southwest to the Promised Land—a.k.a. Canaan—a trip of about a thousand miles total? It is apparently all fallout from the incident recorded in Genesis 9: “And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.” The story is a little short on details, but the bottom line is that Shem and Japheth, when told of their father’s shameful state, treated him with respect, while Ham mocked him. And we get the distinct impression that Ham’s son Canaan did something far worse than merely treating his grandfather disrespectfully: “So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: ‘Cursed be Canaan. A servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.’ And he said: ‘Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant.” (Genesis 9:20-27)
So the Hamite portion of the Table of Nations concludes: “Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn, and Heth [father of the Hittites, whose domain centered in modern-day Turkey, but who had established colonies within the Levant by Abraham’s time]; the Jebusite [the first tribe to build Jerusalem], the Amorite, and the Girgashite; the Hivite, the Arkite, and the Sinite; the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite [who ended up in northern Syria]. Afterward the families of the Canaanites were dispersed. And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; then as you go toward Sodom [a clue as to Canaan’s transgression against Noah, perhaps], Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.” Note that six of the seven nations Yahweh slated for removal from the Promised Land (see Deuteronomy 7:1) are listed here. And the outlier, the Perrizites, are universally regarded as a Canaanite group as well—and are included by name in God’s original promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:20). “These were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands and in their nations.” (Genesis 10:15-20)
Finally, we come to the sons of Shem, the “Semitic” peoples. From their starting point in Mesopotamia, they pretty much stayed put, settling the lands from modern Syria, through the fertile crescent, and points east.
“Also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber [that is, the Hebrews], and the older brother of Japheth, children were born. The sons of Shem were Elam [who settled just north of the Persian Gulf], Asshur [the Assyrians, whose capital was Nineveh, on the Tigris River], Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram [father of the Syrians]. The sons of Aram were Uz [in whose land the godly Job dwelled], Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arphaxad begot Salah, and Salah begot Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided [at the tower of Babel]; and his brother’s name was Joktan. Joktan begot Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were the sons of Joktan. And their dwelling place was from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east. These were the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations.” (Genesis 10:21-31)
The “Hebrew” we need to track most carefully, of course, is Abram/Abraham. His line is clarified in a later genealogical passage: “Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, and Abram, who is Abraham. The sons of Abraham were Isaac and Ishmael.” (I Chronicles 1:24-28; cf. Genesis 11:10-26) Abram’s travels were all within Shemite territory—until God directed him to settle in Canaan (as I observed above, a son of Ham, and the recipient of Noah’s curse). It is as if God was “encouraging” Canaan and his progeny to resettle in Africa, along with most of Ham’s other descendants, leaving the Shemites in control of everything from the Mediterranean Sea eastward—at least as far as Elam (near the Persian Gulf).
It is instructive to enquire why Yahweh wanted the nations separated from one another. The story is recounted in Genesis 11. “Now the whole [post-flood] earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed eastward [from the mountains of Ararat], that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.” There is still “asphalt” (read: oil) aplenty in Iran and Iraq. “And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:1-4) God had already issued a directive to disperse: “God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.’” (Genesis 9:1) So this was a clear violation of His plan, but not for the reasons we might have imagined.
The problem was the nature of the heart of man—wicked and rebellious. If we all stayed together, we would run the risk of being swept wholesale into falsehood and apostasy—just as in the pre-flood world—which is exactly what happened when the brutal and charismatic Nimrod showed up. “Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And Yahweh said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing [i.e., no evil purpose] that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there Yahweh confused the language of all the earth; and from there Yahweh scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:5-9) Babel would eventually become Babylon—a regionally powerful city-state whose name is used throughout scripture as a symbol of false worship, someone from whom we are repeatedly instructed to flee.
Remember, we were already told of the connection between Babel and Nimrod: “The beginning of [Nimrod’s] kingdom was Babel… in the land of Shinar.” (Genesis 10:10) God’s ingenious solution to “world domination” under a single godless demagogue was to confuse the comprehension of language. We aren’t told how many languages emerged from Babel, but it is clear that this ploy was, at the very least, effective in separating the offspring of Shem, Ham, and Japheth from each other, and perhaps smaller family sub-units as well (the children or grandchildren of these patriarchs). To this day, populations who become isolated from each other for any length of time tend to develop dialects and vocabularies that are mutually unintelligible. Like Yahshua turning water into wine, God “merely” accelerated the process of linguistic drift. Today, there are approximately 7,000 different languages spoken in our world, a number that is in a constant state of flux, because new languages are constantly emerging, while others are becoming obsolete.
So while much of the world, both Hamite and Japhethite, followed Nimrod’s false pagan trinity, much of the Shemite family—especially the sons of Eber—continued to honor Yahweh, the God of Noah, at least in the beginning.
Israel: the Promised Land
When Yahweh called Abram, the idea wasn’t to run away from idol worship (which, let’s face it, was rampant almost everywhere by this time, thanks to Nimrod’s influence). Rather, it was to set apart one family, one nation, for His own name and purpose: to be God’s vehicle of redemption for the whole world. “Now Yahweh had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1-3)
It is not my purpose here to recount the entire history of Israel (or for that matter, any of the other nations who were singled out in scripture). At this juncture, I am “merely” trying to establish what “being there” symbolizes. Since Israel is so crucial to our understanding of God’s plan, however, it should come as no surprise that I have covered it from several angles elsewhere in my writings. For further study, see The End of the Beginning, Chapter 5 (“The People of Promise”), and Chapter 6 (“Ground Zero”); The Owner’s Manual, a comprehensive analysis of the Torah, which was addressed specifically to Israel; and our present work, The Torah Code, Volume 4, Chapter 2 (“The Wilderness and Promised Land”), and Volume 4, Chapter 2.1 (“Israel: God’s Family”).
Anyway, the “land that God showed Abram” turned out to be where the family of Canaan (the son of Ham and recipient of Noah’s curse, you’ll recall) had settled: the strip of land hugging the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Abram (i.e., Abraham) moved in and thrived, but he never really owned any of the Promised Land (except for a small burial plot he purchased from some Hittite colonists). The same thing was true of his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob (a.k.a. Israel): they didn’t displace any Canaanites, nor did they end up owning the land that God had promised to them, though Yahweh repeated His “Great Nation” promise to each of them. Rather, Yahweh did the most counterintuitive thing one could possibly imagine: He “prepared” the nation of Israel for service by allowing them to be subjected to four centuries of bondage, servitude, and hopelessness in Egypt. That way, they’d be a “blank slate” when they finally emerged, via His signs, wonders, plagues, and miraculous deliverance. They’d have no specific expectations from this God they had all but forgotten—no errant religious traditions to un-learn. All they would know for sure was that Yahweh had delivered them: He was nothing like the gods of Egypt.
In short, Israel was set apart from the world to be the recipient of the most comprehensive of Yahweh’s “modes of communication”—the Torah, the Law of Moses. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 reveal that obedience would be the key to Israel’s blessings on a national scale. “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that Yahweh your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of Yahweh your God.” And vice versa: “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 15)
What followed each proposition was a litany of detailed and specific blessings (or curses) that would prove to be a reliable indicator of how well they were following Yahweh’s instructions. As it turned out, though they were never perfect, there were times when the blessings God poured out upon Israel defined them as a “blessed” nation. Israel was supposed to be the “test-case,” a “focus group,” that would demonstrate to the rest of the world what it was like to share an intimate national relationship with the One True God, Yahweh. Ideally, they would keep His commandments, find themselves blessed as a result, and be an inspiring witness to the surrounding nations that this God they worshiped was awesome (and more to the point, real). One example of how this worked in practice was the relationship with Hiram, king of Tyre, and Israel’s king David (and later, Solomon). “Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, because he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram had always loved David…. So it was, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly and said, ‘Blessed be Yahweh this day, for He has given David a wise son over this great people!’” (I Kings 5:1, 7)
But alas, far more often they were cursed by their own unwillingness to “obey the voice of Yahweh their God.” Moses had told them, before they’d even entered the Land of Promise, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love Yahweh your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) As complicated as the Torah looks at first glance (and indeed, as impossible as perfect compliance proved to be in practice) it was never really meant to be a method by which one could earn his own salvation. Rather, it was a picture of what perfection—innocence before God—looked like. It is a standard none of us (with One exception) has ever lived up to. Peter accurately characterized the Torah as “a yoke on the neck…which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.” (Acts 15:10) In revealing our shortcomings, the Law of Moses made one thing perfectly clear: we could not save ourselves: we’d have to rely on God’s righteousness—grace through faith.
Only one Man has ever kept the Torah’s statutes perfectly, in both the literal and spiritual sense. And that compliance made Yahshua the Messiah the only possible candidate for being “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He couldn’t fulfill the role of the Levitical priests, of course (because He was of the royal tribe of Judah). Rather, He “became” the sacrifice itself: the lamb, goat, bull, ram, unleavened fine flour, olive oil, frankincense, and all the rest. That is, Christ personified everything the Torah’s sacrifices were meant to signify and reveal. As He Himself said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17) He did not come to “start a new religion,” but to demonstrate what the Torah—the heart of Jewish belief—was actually all about: it was Yahweh’s plan for the reconciliation of the entire fallen human race to Himself.
Israel, then, was tasked with “acting out,” as in a game of Charades, the plan of God before the watching world. They weren’t given all the details up front. In fact, they understood almost nothing (beyond the rote precepts) of the immense symbolic import of what Yahweh had told them to do. They had no clue why they were supposed to circumcise their male children on the eighth day of life, eat only unleavened bread for a week every spring, sacrifice the firstborn males of their flocks, refrain from doing their regular jobs on the last day of the week—or any of a thousand other things God had told them to do. He simply said, “Obey me, and I will bless your nation.” What these rules meant would largely remain a mystery until after Christ’s resurrection. (And let’s face it: most of them are still opaque to most people today, almost two thousand years later. For my take on the whole issue, see The Owner’s Manual: What Every Christian Should Know About the Law of Moses, elsewhere on this website.)
One of the more counterintuitive factors in God’s Instructions to Israel was where they were to perform His precepts. After promising the Land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Yahweh allowed the family to grow into a nation in a foreign land—in bondage, no less—for four hundred years. I may have some insight into why He did this: my wife and I adopted nine of our eleven children, and seven of them were born in foreign countries. Some of them came when they were infants, but several of them were older when we got them—from three to twelve years old. They understood from day one that there was no going back (to Korea, India, or wherever); it was “sink or swim” in their new home. So they all dropped their old languages like a hot rock, and picked up English with blazing speed, along with the “culture” of their new family. Now imagine being one of about two million Israelites who had been born in Egypt. After Yahweh had freed them (and especially after their little Red Sea experience) they knew they could never again return to their old dystopian lives in Egypt—even if they had gotten used to them. But they couldn’t wander around in the wilderness forever, either. They had no choice but to follow the pillar of cloud forward—at its own chosen pace—toward the Promised Land: their destination and their destiny.
Elsewhere, I have made the case that Israel is God’s chosen metaphor for “Yahweh’s family,” those who have formed a personal relationship with their Creator—whether before Calvary or afterward. The psalmist Asaph writes, “‘Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.’ Let the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is Judge.” (Psalm 50:5-6) This covenant—this contract—was predicted in the rites of the Torah, but it was fulfilled when Yahshua became the Sacrifice. We become members of God’s family when we recognize and embrace the efficacy of the sacrifice He made to cover our sin.
What, then, does the “Promised Land” represent? Because it is our “destination,” our knee-jerk response might be: it’s heaven! But then we realize that the land that God promised to Israel was far from perfect. Yes, on the plus side, it was definitely a bountiful place, a “land flowing with milk and honey.” The twelve spies Moses sent in to check out the Land came back with a cluster of grapes so big it had to be carried on a pole between two of them. And the country was watered not by laborious irrigation strategies (as in Egypt), but by timely rains blown in from the Mediterranean Sea—especially in the spring and fall, the “early and latter rains” spoken of so often in scripture. (That these “early and latter rains” were a prophecy of the two advents of the Messiah is a fact still lost on the majority of believers, even today.)
On the negative side, however, the land of Canaan was crawling with, well, Canaanites! The ten pessimistic (read: untrusting) spies reported, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” Well, that was true enough. “And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.’” (Numbers 13:31-33) Yes, there were challenges to face, enemies to overcome, and battles to fight. Horrors! They had completely forgotten that Yahweh, their God, had promised to go before them into battle. Let’s face it: the Red Sea had looked “impossible” as well.
So the Promised Land does not represent heaven (our eternal destination), but rather the everyday life of the believer—in this world. I find it fascinating how quickly the Israelites had gotten used to living under the provision and protection of Yahweh, and yet they (most of them) hadn’t learned a thing about trusting Him for their future unanticipated needs. God had extricated them from slavery in Egypt with multiple signs and wonders, and had then destroyed Pharaoh’s pursuing army by drowning them in the same body of water that they themselves had walked through dry-shod only a few hours previously. Then He had created a whole new kind of food that just showed up on the ground for them to pick up each morning, and had provided enough water for their whole nation by having Moses split a rock in two with his shepherd’s staff. And yet the ten unfaithful spies somehow convinced the whole nation that a few giants were going to be too tough for them to handle: Yahweh wasn’t even part of their equation.
The heart of the issue was the object of their trust: who would Israel rely upon as they entered the Land of Promise? Four hundred years of bondage had taught them that they couldn’t rely on their own strength. And while still in the wilderness, God had warned them: “I am Yahweh your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow My rules and keep My statutes and walk in them….” We’ll discuss both Egypt and Canaan a bit later in this study. For now, let us just observe two things:
(1) Our traditions, cultural habits, and ingrained customs are not merely useless—they’re counterproductive in the Kingdom of God. Just because we’ve spent the past four centuries in “Egypt,” it doesn’t mean that’s the way life is supposed to be. “The way we’ve always done it” is not necessarily correct or beneficial, even if we did manage to live through the experience. Now that we know for sure who God is, we are to follow Him, and Him alone—trusting that He has our best interests at heart, even if we don’t quite understand what He’s doing (or why) at any given moment.
(2) Just because Yahweh had declared our destination to be “the land of Canaan,” we should not presume that we should adopt their beliefs and customs, either. The Land was about to “vomit out” the children of Canaan, and God’s people were supposed to function as the emetic. While we must, by God’s design, live “in the world” (Canaan, in this case), we are not to allow the world to live in us, shaping our perception, goals, and practices. Rather, we are to view the world through the lens of Yahweh’s revealed Word: we are to be holy—set apart from our environment, and dedicated instead to God’s plan, as revealed in His Word.
So He concludes, “I am Yahweh your God. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am Yahweh.” (Leviticus 18:1-5) As always, the primary indicator of who one really trusts is obedience. Compliance with Yahweh’s statutes results in abundant life. We have all fallen short of perfect observance of God’s law, but He knows our heart: He knows who we want to obey. In stark contrast with life in both Egypt and Canaan, how refreshing it is to realize that so much of Yahweh’s Torah tells us how to deal with our failures. All of the Torah’s offerings, one way or another, point toward the sacrifice of Christ. Our trust in Him, our reliance upon His finished work, is what God sees as obedience in our lives. As He said regarding Abraham, “He believed in Yahweh, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6; cf. Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23, etc.)
If we are believers in Yahweh and His Messiah, we are (symbolically) “living in the Promised Land.” Yes, there are challenges here, enemies to overcome, and battles to fight. But as Yahweh told the Israelites, “Behold, I send an Angel [Hebrew: malak; literally, a messenger] before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not defy Him, for He will not pardon your rebellion; for My name is in Him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Exodus 23:20-22) Ultimately, this “messenger” is Christ Himself. His name contains Yahweh’s name, for they are One: Yahshua means “Yahweh is Salvation.” The point is that He will guide us through our journey and fight our battles here in the Promised Land—if we do not rebel against Him. The choice (as always) is ours to make.
The Wilderness: Anticipation and Preparation
Before we begin our survey of the individual nations that interacted with Israel, let us take a quick look at a few generalized, non-specific places that are by definition not the Promised Land.
We can learn a lot about God’s modus operandi by studying the exodus. We often tend to misread “the wilderness” as merely the road between Egypt and the Promised Land. But Moses’ and Aaron’s very first encounter with Pharaoh was simply a request to go on a “spiritual retreat” for a few days out in the desert. “Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, ‘Thus says Yahweh, God of Israel: “Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.”’” (Exodus 5:1) The king’s response was predictable: “I don’t recognize this ‘Yahweh’ of yours. But you obviously have too much idle time on your hands. Go back to work.” We all know what happened next: God raised the ante in this spiritual poker game ten times in a row, and in the process proved that all of Egypt’s “gods” were impotent frauds—up to and including Pharaoh’s own royal dynasty. After the tenth plague, the Israelites weren’t just allowed to leave Egypt for a few days: they were thrown out—permanently.
But the wilderness in which the Israelites found themselves was not a place of punishment or exile (as the Egyptians saw it), but (as Yahweh conceived it) a place of inspiration and preparation. Before Israel could even contemplate a life of freedom in the Land of Promise, however, they would have to get reacquainted with the God of their ancestors—a God they had all but forgotten in their malaise and hopelessness in the world.
The wilderness was where Moses had received his “post graduate” education. God had arranged for the infant Moses to be adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, naturally receiving the best education possible in the halls of Egyptian power. But then, at about forty years of age, he had slain an abusive Egyptian, and had fled to the wilderness of Midian, where he spent the next forty years tending somebody else’s sheep. This, it would turn out, was perfect training for the job Yahweh had in mind for him: tending His own unruly flock, the children of Israel.
The “campus” of Moses’ post-graduate institution was in today’s northwest Saudi Arabia—the wilderness. “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of Yahweh appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when Yahweh saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush.” (Exodus 3:1-4) Yahweh had called Moses in his mother’s womb for a very special purpose. Now, some eighty years later, He revealed what that purpose was: “To deliver [Israel] out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:8-10) Oh, is that all?
After God offered a great deal of explanation (and some compelling object lessons) Moses reluctantly agreed to fulfill his destiny, though he felt neither qualified nor capable of doing the job. (One gets the feeling that forty years of tending sheep had blunted his self-confidence a bit—which is just as Yahweh had planned it. Moses had to know that he was doing this in Yahweh’s power, not his own—which admittedly hadn’t worked out so well for him when he had murdered the abusive Egyptian forty years previously.)
So the wilderness was where God chose to reveal His plan—and not just to Moses, but to the entire nation. Yahweh knew Pharaoh would change his mind about letting his slave-nation escape. But although it would have been a straight shot from Goshen into the Promised Land, God instead led them south, through what is now known as the Sinai Peninsula. They travelled through a narrow canyon to a broad beach where they were perceived by the Egyptian armies as being trapped—with sheer cliffs on their right, and an Egyptian fortress blocking their way to the left. God told Moses exactly what Pharaoh’s pursuing army would be thinking: “They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.” (Exodus 14:3) When they saw the approaching armies, the Israelites panicked (naturally), and blamed Moses for their “impossible” predicament. But “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
We all know what happened next. Yahweh separated the Israelites from the Egyptians with a pillar of fire, opened a pathway through the sea, and took His people dry-shod to the other side—about a ten mile walk. When they reached the other shoreline, He allowed the waters to return, drowning Pharaoh’s entire presumptuous army. “So Yahweh overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained. But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. So Yahweh saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Thus Israel saw the great work which Yahweh had done in Egypt; so the people feared Yahweh, and believed Yahweh and His servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:27-31) And the Israelites stopped complaining—for about fifteen minutes.
But again, Yahweh led them south: away from the Promised Land. There were still lessons to be learned. At the burning bush, Yahweh had told Moses, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12) So Mount Horeb was where God now led the people. Bear in mind, the desert is a place of scant resources, little forage for flocks and herds, and no water at all, unless you happened to find an oasis. That’s why the world sees only adversity and disaster looming in the wilderness. But Israel was about to learn that God’s people can expect to experience His provision and preparation there. After letting the multitude worry about their plight for a few days, He provided manna to eat and water to drink—by clearly miraculous means.
But by far the most significant thing Israel received during their sojourn at Mount Horeb was the Torah. As Moses later explained to their children, “He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of Yahweh.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) This was more literally true than anybody understood at the time. God’s Instruction (which is what “Torah” means) would turn out to be much more than what it seemed (a complex compendium of rules, regulations, and a dizzying array of mandated sacrifices and offerings). In the end, the Torah explained what innocence looked like. It revealed that no one with a sin nature would be able to keep it perfectly; and then it provided a symbolic remedy for our failure to do so.
No one would realize until after Yahshua had risen from the dead that His mission had been inscribed between every line of the Torah: He Himself was to be Innocence Personified, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” As He explained, a few hours after His resurrection, to a couple of distressed disciples on the road to Emmaus, “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:25-27) Granted, Yahweh had held His cards very close to the vest, communicating mostly in parables and metaphors. One gets the feelings that He didn’t create angels (and more to the point, devils) with much capacity for parabolic thought. But once we humans figure out how our God communicates, we can “see” things Satan can’t quite understand. God’s usage of symbols is, you’ll recall, why I wrote The Torah Code in the first place.
The wilderness is one of those symbols. It’s not Egypt, but it’s not the Promised Land, either. Based on what Yahweh did to (and for) Israel during their forty year sojourn there, we can discern quite a bit about the “wilderness experiences” in our own lives—those transitional periods we all have in which God is endeavoring to awaken us to a new spiritual paradigm. The wilderness is meant to be something we go through, not live in. We are intended to enter it, learn its lessons, and emerge from the other side equipped, renewed, trained, and focused on the task before us. It is neither our birthplace nor our destination—it’s merely the journey between the two. When we’re in the wilderness, we can expect to get tested. The whole point of being there is to learn to trust Yahweh—which often means we’ll be put in uncomfortable situations in which trusting Him is our only logical recourse.
Ideally, in the wilderness, our senses are heightened; our spiritual reflexes are sharpened. The fear of God becomes a visceral reality to us once again—because it has to if we’re going to make it through the trial unscathed. I’ll offer one example from my own life. In 1987, my wife and I had already adopted half a dozen kids, and we were preparing to get a little girl from India. Twelve-year-old Marianne had been crippled by polio, and was confined to a wheelchair. But we lived in a tri-level house with no downstairs bedrooms, so the plan was to build a two-story wing onto the back of the house. (Who needs a back yard, anyway?) We had arranged financing and hired a contractor. So far, so good.
I made a modest but comfortable living working as the Art Director for a successful folding carton manufacturer in Southern California, a position I had held for over fifteen years. And for several years, I had also supplemented our income by doing graphic design work on the side that didn’t compete with my employer’s parameters (with their blessing, I might add). We weren’t getting rich, but we were holding our own there “in Egypt.” Meanwhile, construction was proceeding on our new bedroom wing. On one auspicious day, the contractor tore off the back of the house: progress! But I came home from work that very afternoon with news we were not prepared for: I had been “downsized.” The company had decided to shut down the art department to concentrate on their core business—printing and manufacturing paper boxes. In short, we suddenly found ourselves “in the wilderness.” So like the Israelites of old, we were “free,” but we had no visible means of support—no job, no savings to speak of, nothing but tons of responsibilities to meet.
We suddenly had a decision to make. We could opt to trust God to meet our needs (as He had the Israelites’ in the desert), or we could bail out of what looked for all the world like a sinking ship: cancel Marianne’s adoption, tell the contractor to rebuild the back of the house, and scour the want-ads for a new job. We had an advantage, however: my wife and I had experienced God’s provision in a hundred little ways in the past (those kids we had previously adopted were His, after all). So we nuked our 401k to get us over the hump, and told the adoption agency to remain on track despite our little setback. I turned my basement retreat into a makeshift art studio, and made the rounds of my former employer’s art department clients, offering my services to them.
I’m not going to lie: that first year was a little rough. But God (with a little help from yours truly) eventually made my new company a roaring success. I was working fewer hours, making even more money, and had the satisfaction of working directly for clients who appreciated my efforts on their behalf. Marianne came home, and became my wife’s constant companion. It was, in short, sort of like the commercial version of “living in the Promised Land.” Yes, there were a few giants to slay, but because I worked “as unto the Lord,” we prospered in the Land God had given us.
The wilderness can be a little scary, because we never really know what’s coming next. The whole idea is to spend our time there learning to trust our Creator to meet our needs—even if we don’t know what they are yet. In the Promised Land, we run risk of falling into complacency: we may begin to feel that God somehow owes us a good, secure life, because that’s what He’s always provided. But in the wilderness, we have no such flippant expectation. In the desert, every drop of rain, every flake of manna, is a miracle—and we know it (or at least we should).
One could argue that Yahshua, being God incarnate, didn’t really need to be “prepared” for anything. And yet He spent time in the wilderness—voluntarily! Immediately after His baptism by John, “Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil.” (Luke 4:1-2) There, He was subjected to three tests (that we’re told of). First, the devil tempted Him to meet His own physical needs using supernatural power. He had the ability to do this, of course, but His mission was to save us, not serve Himself. So Yahshua reminded him what the Torah had said: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” (Luke 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3)
Next, Satan suggested (since Yahshua was destined to be king anyway), that He skip the whole Isaiah 53 “Suffering Servant” phase and move right into the throne room of planet earth—something the devil had the power to deliver, after a fashion (and eventually will, to the Antichrist). All He would have to do to attain this was to worship Satan instead of Yahweh. Again, Yahshua answered Him from scripture: “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship Yahweh your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” (Luke 4:8; cf. Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 13:4)
Finally, the devil—this time quoting scripture himself (out of context, of course) to make it seem as if his suggestion had actually been God’s idea—proposed that Yahshua do something supernatural and sign-worthy to demonstrate His deity to the Jewish authorities. But again, Yahshua shut him down with a salient comeback: “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt Yahweh your God.’” (Luke 4:12; cf. Deuteronomy 6:16) Having beaten the devil at his own game, Yahshua had fulfilled the purpose and promise of the wilderness. He had used the one tool we travelers through life all have at our disposal—the Word of God, illuminated by God’s Spirit. As Paul would later put it, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” (Ephesians 6:10-13)
We must not forget that Yahshua, though God in flesh, had voluntarily left behind the trappings, perks, and supernatural abilities of deity when He took on the persona of a mortal man. The only tools He had are the same ones with which we believers are equipped: the indwelling Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures. (Granted, never having grieved or quenched the Spirit, the power that He wielded—healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead—exceeded ours in spectacular fashion.) But being fully human, Yahshua got tired from time to time. He needed a place to “recharged His batteries,” so to speak. So where did He go? To the wilderness—the only place where He could be alone with God without distractions for a few hours.
So we read, “Great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16) Notice that in all of these examples of Christ “retreating” to the wilderness, the one constant is prayer. Job No. 1 was to show God’s love to the multitudes, but it took a lot out of Him. He got physically exhausted meeting the needs of those who were hungry for truth and desperate for healing. But His remedy for fatigue was not a nap or a vacation in the Bahamas, but prayer: “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:23) One gets the feeling that Christ had a knack for finding a bit of “wilderness” in which to pray wherever He was. All that was needed was some solitude: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” (Mark 1:35) “And when He had sent [the multitude] away, He departed to the mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:46)
We are even told of one occasion in which Yahshua prayed all night long: “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God….” The issue this time was not ministry fatigue, but a monumental decision that had to be made the next morning. “And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles.” (Luke 6:12-13) He had hundreds of followers from which to select the Twelve, but His choices are revealing.
Many of them were fishermen, a bit rough around the edges. The “inner circle,” Peter, Andrew, James, and John, get most of the “press” in the Gospels, while some are hardly mentioned at all. None of them were “religious professionals.” Matthew was a former tax collector. Thomas became known for his practical skepticism. Peter was forever blurting out what everybody else was thinking, but were too polite to ask. Simon the Zealot was a political activist. But the biggest surprise of all was His choice of Judas Iscariot—whom Yahshua knew would someday betray Him. In all, the twelve (yes, even including Judas) were a pretty fair cross section of the church. Some would serve in obscurity, others in the limelight. Some caught on rather quickly; others were slower to understand. Most were there for the right reason—faith in the Messiah’s mission—while one (Judas) was a pretender with impure motives. All of them (again, with the exception of Judas) were transformed by the resurrection—investing their entire lives spreading the Good News, gladly paying for the privilege with their mortal lives. None of them were perfect; all of them were redeemed. And all of them knew what it was like to live in the Promised Land—with frequent forays into the wilderness for spiritual sustenance.
The Sea—Gentile Nations: Isles or Coastlands
Every nation has a “land” in which to live, and the Bible is peppered with references to them: the land of Egypt; the land of Canaan; the land of the Philistines, etc. But only one “land” is referred to as the “Promised Land,” that is, the homeland promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their progeny. “Now Yahweh had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3) Ironically, it is referred to as “the land of Canaan” in the most comprehensive and detailed description of its promised borders in scripture, Numbers 34, because that’s who lived there at the time.
But sprinkled throughout the Tanakh, there are references to a “place” that is by definition not Israel, but its converse, that which is contrasted against it. And if the Table of Nations (reviewed above) can be taken at face value, it is primarily Japhethite territory: “From these [the sons of Japheth] the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.” (Genesis 10:5) If you’ll recall, the geographical disposition of the sons of Noah was (in very rough terms): the sons of Shem received the middle east and the orient; the Hamites got Africa; and the children of Japheth settled in lands to the north and west—that is, what is now Europe, Russia, and eventually, the Americas.
The reason the gentiles (and especially the Japhethites) were characterized as “coastland peoples” or “islands of the sea” (hence the “sea” itself, as opposed to the Land) was that they were accessible primarily through the Mediterranean Sea. We’ll see in a bit that the Phoenicians who inhabited the Levant (the city-states of Tyre and Sidon) grew rich and prideful through their trade with other ports on the coasts of the Mediterranean (known in scripture as “the Great Sea”). The Philistines who inhabited the southern Levant were originally known as a seafaring people. Another place name that pops up often in the same context is Tarshish—located in Southern Spain—whose name became synonymous with “international trade.” Egypt and Cyprus were frequent ports of call for these successful merchant-traders.
Having established the symbol of “the sea = gentiles,” God made it a foundation of prophetic shorthand. By calling it “the sea,” Yahweh distinguished it from Israel—“the Land.” (That is, even Shemite peoples not in the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are regarded as gentiles—the “sea.”) Thus we read the sweeping prophecy of Daniel, in which he saw four nations rising up from the Sea: “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.” (Daniel 7:2-3) It would transpire that Daniel had seen this same information years previously, but in radically different imagery (in Nebuchadnezzar’s “statue” dream, related in chapter 2). These four “beasts from the sea” (as subsequent history would attest) turned out to be four gentile superpowers, each of which would, in turn, exercise hegemony over Israel—and specifically, Jerusalem. (Other powers, like Egypt and Assyria, had dominated God’s chosen people at one time or another, but they had not been able to take the Jewish capital.)
It is worth noting that if Israel had consistently honored Yahweh, none of these “beasts” would have troubled them. As Moses had warned them, “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that Yahweh your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 28:1) Daniel was living proof that the Land of Promise had “vomited out” Israel, just as it had the Canaanites: he was among the first wave of Judean royalty to be hauled off to Babylon in 605 BC (the first gentile “beast,” where his faithfulness to Yahweh brought him to King Nebuchadnezzar’s attention. He would live his entire adult life in captivity, living long enough to see the transition to the second gentile “beast,” the Medo-Persian Empire, who swallowed Babylon whole in 539 BC. The third “beast” was the Greeks, who under Alexander the Great conquered the crumbling Persian Empire in about 328 BC.
The fourth “beast from the sea” was the Roman Empire: “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.” (Daniel 7:7) In Nebuchadnezzar’s “statue” vision, this last gentile kingdom had been presented as its legs and feet of mixed iron and clay: “And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.” (Daniel 2:40-43)
The remarkable thing (at least to me) is that in both visions revealing the fourth gentile “beast,” God skipped over the church age, concentrating instead on the characteristics of the fourth gentile kingdom only as it related to Israel (who was scattered among the nations from 135 AD to 1948). The point (I think) is that the “church age” didn’t have to happen: if Israel had embraced her Messiah when she had the chance, the last two thousand years would have looked very different. Yes, the Sabbath principle would still have been in place, but Israel would have blessed in the interim, not cursed. Of course, passages like Hosea 6:1-2 reveal Yahweh’s foreknowledge of what would actually transpire. But God did not choose their destiny: Israel did have a choice—and they chose poorly.
So Rome began as a terrifying and brutal beast with the ability and will to crush everything in its path. It was in charge of affairs in Judea when Yahshua appeared to offer Himself up to atone for the sin of the world, and Rome was happy to oblige—by crucifying Him. But then both visions move seamlessly into the beast-kingdom’s final permutation, having ten horns (seats of power) and a schizophrenic strong-but-fragile nature, unable to hold itself together. We’re clearly getting a glimpse of the Antichrist’s Last-Days one-world government. In fact, the Daniel 7 version continues with a symbolic description of the Antichrist himself: “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 7:8)
The thing that gives me great comfort is that again, in both visions, we transition—abruptly, without taking a breath—directly from the fourth gentile beast-nation into the kingdom of God that will replace it: the Messiah’s everlasting reign: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you [Nebuchadnezzar] saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.” (Daniel 2:44-45)
Compare that to this: “And behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14) Note that although all gentile governmental power will be crushed, individual gentiles from all over the world will serve Christ in his everlasting kingdom.
Daniel was so shaken by all this esoteric prophecy that he may not have realized that exactly the same story had been told to him twice—once to the young captive, and later to the elder statesman. But I am eternally grateful that he wrote it all down for us to ponder.
Daniel wasn’t the only Biblical writer to allude to the “gentiles = the sea” metaphor. John used it as well, though he didn’t spell it out. In Revelation, we are introduced to two significant characters called “beasts.” The first (we may surmise) will be a gentile: “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.” (Revelation 13:1) This description equates to the one we have come to know as the Antichrist (a.k.a. the son of perdition, a.k.a. the man of sin) that we met in Daniel 7:8.
But he does not rule without help: “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” (Revelation 13:11-12) This “beast,” in contrast, comes from the earth, from the Land. The only conclusion I can draw is that he is Jewish. He is elsewhere identified as “the false prophet,” who operates as the Antichrist’s spokesman, enforcer, and house magician, doing signs and wonders (like calling down fire from the heavens) to impress and intimidate the hapless souls of planet earth—especially his fellow Jews. Considering the Antichrist’s fixation on convincing Israel that he is their Messiah, it makes perfect sense that he would choose a Jew as his front-man. Just remember: he may look like a lamb, but he speaks like a dragon.
Another allusion to the “gentiles = seas” metaphor in Revelation is John’s introduction to the “Whore of Babylon.” “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication….’” Lest there should be any confusion, the angel spells it out: “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” (Revelation 17:1-2, 15) When we first meet the harlot, she is seen “riding,” i.e. controlling, the whole world—including the beast (the Antichrist). But it is clear from verse 16 that he and the nations he leads will eventually betray and destroy her, taking over her whole world-wide scam like one Mafia don encroaching on the territory of another. Nothing personal: it’s just business. It’s probably the ultimate example of God’s customary modus operandi—letting one evil eradicate another until there’s only one enemy left to defeat.
Make no mistake: it is Yahweh’s objective to save humanity—all of us, Jew and gentile alike—as many of us who choose to honor Him. Though salvation is of the Jews (through the sacrifice of Christ), it is not exclusively for the Jews. It is an individual matter: one soul at a time; and we are given our whole lives to respond to our Creator. The rub is that we never know in advance how long our mortal lives will last.
That being said, nations are blessed or condemned based on how their collective populations respond to God—either to His written word, the testimony of believers, or even the witness of His greatness as revealed by nature. Scottish historian Alexander Tyler observed (in 1787), “The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence: (1) from bondage to spiritual faith; (2) from spiritual faith to great courage; (3) from courage to liberty; (4) from liberty to abundance; (5) from abundance to complacency; (6) from complacency to apathy; (7) from apathy to dependence; (8) from dependence back into bondage.” Whether two hundred years or a thousand, the pattern seems fairly consistent, although what Tyler characterizes as “spiritual faith” might (for many nations) be more accurately described as virtue or valor—without regard to the true and living God.
The point is that nations, like people, have a life cycle, one they can extend or shorten according to how they regard their Creator. (Israel was given the key, 3,500 years ago: see Deuteronomy 28.) Eventually, all nations are judged by God. Bear in mind that in scripture, “judgment” doesn’t necessarily mean condemnation; rather it denotes a judicial determination, a separation of right from wrong, of good from evil. The Bible’s “life-cycle of nations” picks up where Alexander Tyler’s ends. It begins with judgment—the separation of the sheep from the goats, or the wheat from the tares. Phase two is restoration, revealing in no uncertain terms that Yahweh has included the gentiles in His plan of redemption. And phase three is the biggest surprise of all: the nations will enjoy their status in the Kingdom of God not as conquerors, but as blessed subjects of the Messiah-King, who will reign in Jerusalem—in Israel—over the entire unified world. Something tells me Adolph Hitler is rolling over in his grave.
Ezekiel described one instance of God’s judgment: “Thus says the Lord Yahweh to Tyre.” We’ll discuss the city-state of Tyre a bit later. What I’d like to point out here is the gentile nations’ reaction to its demise: “‘Will the coastlands not shake at the sound of your fall, when the wounded cry, when slaughter is made in the midst of you? Then all the princes of the sea will come down from their thrones, lay aside their robes, and take off their embroidered garments; they will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, tremble every moment, and be astonished at you. And they will take up a lamentation for you, and say to you: “How you have perished, O one inhabited by seafaring men, O renowned city, who was strong at sea, she and her inhabitants, who caused their terror to be on all her inhabitants! Now the coastlands tremble on the day of your fall. Yes, the coastlands by the sea are troubled at your departure.”’” (Ezekiel 26:15-18) Why are the other nations (the “coastlands”) so upset—trembling and lamenting at Tyre’s fate? It’s because it had once been regarded as impregnable, virtually invincible. And they’ve realized that if Tyre can fall so ignominiously, so can they.
Tyre’s demise is now established historical fact, though it was still in the realm of inconceivable future prophecy when Ezekiel wrote about it. Another of his prophecies—still future from our perspective—is the war of Magog. By my analysis, this will take place during the first half of the Tribulation—before the Antichrist is declared dictator of planet Earth. An all-Islamic horde is seen invading the recently toothless state of Israel, only to be miraculously wiped out by the direct intervening hand of Yahweh. Israel’s eyes are opened, just as they were during their little Red Sea adventure—with identical results: “Thus Israel saw the great work which Yahweh had done… so the people feared Yahweh, and believed Yahweh and His servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:31) But it doesn’t end there. The war at this point will spill out onto much of the rest of the world: “And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am Yahweh. So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am Yahweh, the Holy One in Israel.” (Ezekiel 39:6-7)
In case you missed it, this is the same event described in the first Trumpet Judgment: “The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.” (Revelation 8:7) That’s right: it’s World War III—thermonuclear war waged over one third of the earth’s land surface, killing (with related factors like famine and disease) a quarter of the world’s population. It was described in more generalized terms in the Second Seal Judgment: “Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.” (Revelation 6:4) Let us not brush over the fact that the gentile nations—the coastlands, the sea—have connected the dots: they have realized that it is Yahweh who has rescued Israel from the followers of Allah. Yes, the raptured church (up through Philadelphia—see Revelation 3:10) is long gone from the earth by this time. But it’s not much of an extrapolation to connect God’s protection of Israel with a massive resurgence of faith—forming the church of repentant Laodicea (Revelation 3:18-21), even as the nukes begin falling on the gentile coastlands. As Ezekiel said, “Then the nations shall know that I am Yahweh, the Holy One in Israel.”
Though a bit short on prophetic-historical context, Isaiah seems to be ultimately referring to the same age of judgment: “According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies. The coastlands He will fully repay. So shall they fear the name of Yahweh from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of Yahweh will lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:18-19) Let me reiterate that God is seen dealing (finally) with His enemies here, His adversaries. He is not out to condemn everyone who has fallen into sin. If that were the case, He could just set the planet on fire like a campfire marshmallow and be done with it. Rather, however late in the game, God is still all about restoration, redemption, salvation—and not just for Israel, but for all of Adam’s wayward children.
Isaiah again describes the times: “The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.” (Isaiah 24:6) But is their situation hopeless? No. A few verses later, he says, “They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing. For the majesty of Yahweh they shall cry aloud from the sea. Therefore glorify Yahweh in the dawning light, the name of Yahweh, God of Israel, in the coastlands of the sea. From the ends of the earth we have heard songs: ‘Glory to the righteous!’ But I said, ‘I am ruined, ruined! Woe to me! The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; Indeed, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.’” (Isaiah 24:14-16) The coastlands—the gentile “sea”—is holding on by its fingernails, bewailing its fate as Satan and his beasts run roughshod over the earth during these dark days. But the dawn is about to break.
The Tribulation, as we saw in Daniel 9, is the last “seven” of Yahweh’s allotted “seventy sevens” (i.e., 490 prophetic/schematic 360-day years) defining His program for Israel. Daniel was told, “Seventy weeks are determined for your people [Israel] and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24) But just because God is once again dealing with Israel (after a hiatus of almost two thousand years), it doesn’t mean He has lost interest in the restoration of the gentile nations. As Moses put it, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries. He will provide atonement for His land and His people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43) The post-rapture great awakening will begin with Israel (thanks in large part to the miraculous death of the genocidal Muslims of Magog), but the nations too will take notice and repent. (Alas, not all of them will, but enough to put a serious crimp in the Antichrist’s plans to effortlessly rule the world under the banner of Satan.)
The gentiles have never been far from Yahweh’s thoughts. The whole human race owes Him a debt of gratitude for implementing His plan of salvation through His Son and Messiah, Yahshua. “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him. He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles…. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth, and the coastlands shall wait for His law…. Sing to Yahweh a new song, and His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you coastlands and you inhabitants of them!... Let them give glory to Yahweh, and declare His praise in the coastlands.” (Isaiah 42:1, 4, 10, 12) “Justice,” of course, is a two-edged sword. The Messiah has already paid the penalty to atone for our sins. If we have chosen to receive it, “giving glory to Yahweh, and declaring His praise in the coastlands,” then we may count ourselves among the redeemed—the justified. But if we have declared, (1) “There is no God, hence no such thing as sin,” or (2) “Thanks but no thanks—I’ve got this. My alms, penance, and religious rituals should be quite enough to placate God,” then the only justice you’ll receive is that which you can provide for yourself. Good luck with that.
Option #1 is known as “willful blindness.” You’re choosing not to see what your conscience and logical mind are telling you must be true. Option #2 is tantamount to telling God, “Your plan is inadequate, hence worthless. I’m smarter than You are.” No, you’re not. Yahweh tells it like it is: “Listen, O coastlands, to Me, and take heed, you peoples from afar! Yahweh has called Me [His Messiah] from the womb. From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name…. Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You [again, Yahshua the Messiah] should be My Servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Isaiah 49:1, 6) As I said, salvation is of the Jews (that is, God used the nation of Israel to implement His plan of redemption), but it is for everyone—for the benefit of Jew and gentile alike, anyone who chooses to see the Light.
Alas, as I write these words, only a small minority (characterized as those who have chosen “the narrow gate”—Matthew 7:13) have received Yahweh’s gift of redemption. Most of the world is still travelling on the “broad highway that leads to destruction.” But we are living in the final few moments of the “church age,” which will end abruptly with the rapture of the church, in which (I’m guessing) roughly seven or eight percent of the world’s eight billion souls will suddenly “vanish” from the face of the earth, without so much as a parting kiss. It should be self-apparent that the world won’t be able to ignore the instantaneous disappearance of maybe half a billion people, from every nation on the face of the earth, who had but one thing in common—their (our) faith in Yahshua the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This blessed hope of ours will be followed in short order (though we aren’t told how long the gap might be) by “the Tribulation”—the final seven years of the Daniel 9 prophecy.
It is fascinating to me that the Psalmists, from King David’s time forward, had such a good handle on the geopolitical conditions in our near future. For example: the Sons of Korah proclaimed: “Come, behold the works of Yahweh, who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:8-10) At the moment, this isn’t exactly what we see in the world. We’re now in the “wars and rumors of war” stage—the next-to-last days. The world now spends in excess of two trillion dollars per year on “defense”—fully half of which is spent by the United States and China. Hate and paranoia are awfully expensive, it seems to me. But during Christ’s Millennial reign, “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
What an incredible sigh of relief will be uttered throughout the earth when Yahweh’s Messiah sets up His kingdom. “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For Yahweh Most High is awesome. He is a great King over all the earth…. God reigns over the nations. God sits on His holy throne.” (Psalm 47:1-2, 8) He will have no challengers, no rivals, no enemies. Once the Tribulation has finally run its course, and evil has been vanquished, “The nations shall fear the name of Yahweh, and all the kings of the earth Your glory.… This will be written for the generation to come [literally, the “last generation”], that a people yet to be created may praise Yahweh.” Who are these “yet to be created” ones? The “last generation” will be those who inhabit the Millennial Kingdom as redeemed mortals—those who came to faith after the rapture, yet “somehow” evaded the lethality of the Tribulation, from indiscriminate war to the specific persecution of believers. They are, in short, the “sheep” of Matthew 25:31-36. “For He looked down from the height of His sanctuary. From heaven Yahweh viewed the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to release those appointed to death, to declare the name of Yahweh in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when the peoples are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve Yahweh.” (Psalm 102:15, 18-22) Note again where the center of worship during the Kingdom age will be: in Zion. The nations will no longer look toward Babylon, Rome, or Mecca for their God—much less Washington D.C., Moscow, or Beijing. God, the Messiah-King, will be residing—and ruling—in Jerusalem.
For a book whose central theme (one of them, if we may judge by the incessant repetition of the prophecies) is the eventual restoration and redemption of Israel, it is remarkable how many times in the Hebrew scriptures the gentile nations are identified as recipients of God’s blessing: “Listen to Me, My people, and give ear to Me, O My nation: for law will proceed from Me, and I will make My justice rest as a light of the peoples. My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, and My arms will judge the peoples. The coastlands will wait upon Me, and on My arm they will trust.” (Isaiah 51:4-5) At the moment, the nations are reliant on their own strength. But that is all about to change. “For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not [in Isaiah’s day] heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles.” (Isaiah 66:18-19) Things ain’t what they used to be.
Speaking for Yahshua the Messiah, Zechariah says, “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says Yahweh. Many nations shall be joined to Yahweh in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent Me [Yahshua] to you.” (Zechariah 2:10-11) True Christians already know that Yahweh sent Yahshua to us, for His Holy Spirit dwells within us and empowers us, just as He promised. But we have to take it on faith that Yahweh (in the persona of King Yahshua) will, when He chooses, dwell in Zion’s midst—physically and personally. Something tells me we don’t have long to wait.
The very existence of Israel (as a political entity) is a miracle the world has seen with its own eyes (which is not to say they all like it). Were it not for God’s promises, it would be as unlikely as a revival of the Hittite empire, the Scythians, or Carthage to prominence in the world. What most Jews have forgotten is that the God who in 1948 regathered them from the brink of extinction and placed them back into the Land He had given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the same God who scattered them in the first place. It’s not as if they hadn’t been warned. Even before they entered the Land of Promise, Moses had admonished them, “It shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you….” The list of curses that followed was long and grim—and over the years, Israel suffered each and every one of them. Those “commandments and statutes” all conspired to reveal the coming Messiah—whom Israel rejected. So God was compelled to keep this promise as well: “Yahweh will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known.” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 64)
Any Jew who claims that his people have always been in the center of God’s will, because “Israel is God’s chosen people,” is kidding himself. Yes, they’re chosen, but with status comes responsibility, and Israel (so far) has refused to follow Yahweh’s instructions. Yes, they’re back in the Land of Promise, but they still haven’t learned to heed God’s Word. “Hear the word of Yahweh, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’ For Yahweh has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.” (Jeremiah 31:10-11) Who is the “one stronger than he?” Take your pick: Assyria, Babylon, Rome, the Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany, dar al-Islam, or the Antichrist. They all were (or will be) eliminated, while Israel is destined to once again become Yahweh’s flock. It is important to Yahweh that the gentile nations understand this: they have not replaced Israel in His affections.
Ezekiel was once shown a vision of a valley of dry bones, identified as the “whole house of Israel.” As he watched, the scattered skeletons came together. They were then covered with flesh and skin, but they were still not really alive. This is the state of Israel today. But then, “[God] said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, “Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’ So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.” (Ezekiel 37:9-10) The word translated “breath” here (all three times) is ruach, the word normally rendered “spirit.”
And indeed, if we read on, it all becomes crystal clear: “You shall know that I am Yahweh, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit [ruach] in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.” (Ezekiel 37:13-14) The whole scene is like running the film backwards: Israel is seen progressing from dead, dry bones step by step until they are not only physically living, but spiritually, essentially alive. As Yahshua would later explain to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:6-7) In order to be truly alive, we must be born not only of flesh (as Israel is today), but also of the Spirit of God—something that will take place in Israel (as a nation) on the definitive Day of Atonement—at the Second Coming of Christ.
But we were talking about the gentile nations, the “sea.” How do they fit into all of this? “The Gentiles shall come to your [Israel’s] light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather together, they come to you. Your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side. Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you.” (Isaiah 60:3-5) As it turns out, the gentiles will be instrumental in completing the repatriation of Israel in the early days of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom—just as the church (at least the Philadelphian permutation) helped get the fledgling state of Israel started in the aftermath of Hitler’s holocaust. But to say of Israel in 1948, “the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you,” would have been quite a stretch.
That being said, when Christ reigns and evil has been vanquished in the world, all of humanity will rejoice together. “Who are these who fly like a cloud, and like doves to their roosts? Surely the coastlands shall wait for Me, and the ships of Tarshish will come first, to bring your sons from afar, their silver and their gold with them, to the name of Yahweh your God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because He has glorified you….” He’s speaking to Israel here: God will not “glorify” them until they glorify Him, specifically, recognizing and welcoming Yahshua as their King. It will be at this point that the “coastland” gentile nations—the Millennial mortals—will do everything they can to joyfully facilitate the transition of Israel from “beleaguered pariah” to “beloved capital of Planet Earth.”
The before-and-after contrast couldn’t be more striking. “The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you. For in My wrath I struck you, but in My favor I have had mercy on you. Therefore your gates shall be open continually. They shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings in procession. For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish, and those nations shall be utterly ruined.” (Isaiah 60:8-12) When Yahshua first assumes His throne, this will be self-evident. But as the Millennium progresses and new generations are born into the world, they will need to be reminded of what the Psalmist prophesied: “All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You. They shall sing praises to Your name. Come and see the works of God. He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men…. He rules by His power forever. His eyes observe the nations. Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves.” (Psalm 66:4-5, 7)
One more Last-Days factor bears mention. Although “the nations” (more properly, ethnicities—contrasted with Israel) are spoken of quite often in scripture as if they were acting in concert, this has never been the case in any “official” or systematic capacity until the 20th century. Nations occasionally form temporary alliances, ostensibly for mutual benefit, but they have always been primarily focused on their own perceived self-interests. World War I (optimistically called “the war to end all wars”) got folks thinking about larger, more permanent alliances. Because man’s weapons had clearly outstripped his tactics, we could foresee the day when war could conceivably make the human race an endangered species (you know, just like the Bible predicts). So after one false start—the ill-fated League of Nations (which failed, ironically enough, because it didn’t include a military enforcement option), the United Nations was formed in the wake of World War II—this time with war-making (excuse me—“defense”) capabilities, which were put into use almost immediately, in Korea.
To my mind, the most significant thing the U.N. ever did was to “Partition” Palestine in 1947, ending the British Mandate and paving the way for the creation of the Jewish state of Israel a year later. It was apparently done in a rare moment of empathy for the Jews in the wake of Hitler’s holocaust, in which six million Jews were rounded up and murdered—empathy which has long since evaporated. The vote was 33 for and 13 against, with 10 nations abstaining (including Great Britain, if you can believe that). The Palestinian Arab factions boycotted the whole process, declaring a war of genocide against the fledgling Jewish state the moment their nation was born.
The trend since the mid-20th century has been to join nations together in larger and more binding alliances, like the European Union, as one example among many. As any student of Bible Prophecy (or current events, for that matter) can see, the ultimate goal is globalism—one worldwide system of governance under a single faction or leader. The strategy that the globalists have settled upon sounds altruistic and benign, but the U.N.’s “Agenda 2030” is nothing but recycled Soviet-style socialism, and we all know how that turned out.
Their own official website describes it: “Echoing human security principles, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want … free of fear and violence … with equitable and universal access to quality education, health care and social protection … to safe drinking water and sanitation … where food is sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious … where habits [sic. habitats?] are safe, resilient and sustainable … and where there is universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.” Agenda 2030 “calls for development strategies that result in resilient societies where people are safe from chronic threats such as abject poverty, hunger, disease, violence and repression, and protected from sudden and hurtful disruptions in their daily lives.”
Sounds “wonderful,” doesn’t it? Satanic lies often do. Of course, for a Bible prophecy researcher, the title itself is a dead giveaway: 2030 will mark the mid-point of the Tribulation, when the Antichrist is slated to begin his forty-two month long reign of terror as “Dictator of Planet Earth.” According to Daniel, the Tribulation’s “starting gun” is a treaty: “Then he [the “prince who is to come”—the Antichrist] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week [that is, seven years]. But in the middle of the week  he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27) The “many” is likely none other than the United Nations, whom the Antichrist will play like a Stradivarius in his quest for demonic world dominance. See my comprehensive prophecy study, The End of the Beginning, elsewhere on this website, for the details. (By the way, I noticed the spiritual significance of the year 2030 the better part of two decades before the globalists named their scheme after it. It’s that obvious.)
It is a fascinating exercise to compare what Agenda 2030 promises to what the Millennial reign of Christ (something I might characterize as “Agenda 2033”) will deliver. They sound rather similar on paper, because Satan is a master counterfeiter. But he is also the father of lies. His promises of prosperity and freedom will simply result in equal dystopia for all. His idea of “health care” is abortion on demand and freely available drugs. His idea of “security” is prison. His idea of “freedom from fear” is death. Down is up; wrong is right. As one of the primary drivers of Agenda 2030 put it (with a straight face): “You will own nothing, and be happy. You will eat insects, and be happy.”—Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum. Somehow, I doubt it, Klaus.
Under Yahshua’s reign, the promise of a good life will be fulfilled, but not as we might have expected, accustomed as we are to living in a “Nanny State,” in which perks are distributed without obligation to the sycophants of the government machine. Rather, the principles of Deuteronomy 28 will be spread throughout the redeemed nations. As He told Israel, “If [and that’s a really big word] you diligently obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today…. all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of Yahweh your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl…. Yahweh will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground…. Yahweh will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand.” (Deuteronomy 28:1-5, 11-12)
Forgive my heavy-handed editing here: the words were original addressed specifically to Israel. But I firmly believe that the nature of God’s blessings will transfer intact to the nations when Christ at last “rules over them with a rod of iron.” If we honor and obey God, He will give us the desires of our hearts. Of course, the “desires of our hearts” tend to shift radically when we truly honor Him. Power, pleasure, and prosperity tend to take a back seat to peace, love, and contentment. At least, that has always proved true in my own experience.
So the gentiles born during the Millennial age won’t sit back in their easy chairs and wait breathlessly for human governments to deliver “a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want, free of fear and violence, with equitable and universal access to quality education, health care and social protection….” (as Agenda 2030 promises)—“all the insects you can eat.” Rather, in response to their new-found reverence for Yahweh and His Messiah, the endeavors of the nations will bear fruit as they were intended to from the very beginning. The bounty of the earth will be unhindered by bad weather, greed, or poor stewardship. Natural resources will be harvested responsibly and with thankfulness, while new developments will come on-line as God’s perfect timing allows. (For example, my guess is that solar power will come into its own: see Isaiah 30:26.) Human governments will defer to God’s law, and war will become a lost art—saving countless lives and trillions of dollars in wasted expenditure. Taxes will drop to a tiny fraction of their current onerous (and wasteful) level. Political corruption will disappear, as will greed-driven business practices. Crime will become incredibly rare, because (1) no one will get away with it anymore, and (2) under Torah rules, it will no longer pay—or break even, for that matter.
I could go on, but you get the picture. In many ways, the Millennial Kingdom will be like a return to Eden—only without the sneaky snake and temptation tree. The difference is, the nations will now have the raptured immortal saints to mentor them, and restored Israel to guide them, as they spend a thousand years basking in the glory of the eternal God dwelling in their presence.
We have been looking at “the nations” as a composite entity (as distinct from Israel). But no matter how much animosity separates them today (and no matter how much artificial unity the globalist Antichrist will be able to impose upon them during the Great Tribulation), the nations will act in real harmony and peace toward one another (and especially toward Israel) only when Yahshua the Messiah rules the earth in perfect love from Jerusalem. But let us now study them as individual peoples, or as groups united by a singular symbolic profile, as they are presented in scripture. There is much to learn from them, helping us to determine “where we are” in His grand plan.
Egypt: Bondage in the world
It was no accident that a famine had been instrumental in re-settling the family of Jacob/Israel in Egypt. Yahweh was perfectly capable of insulating them from misfortune in the land of promise, but He had some important lessons to teach them as they grew from a family into a nation—lessons we all need to heed. In other words, their bondage in Egypt wasn’t because Israel was being singled out for punishment for some incomprehensible sin they had committed. The lesson was that all of us—the entire human race—are in bondage to sin. It’s the condition that got our proto-parents thrown out of the Garden. The problem is, we’ve gotten used to it. Life isn’t all bad, all the time, so we tend to forget that this life isn’t what God intended for us. We’re not in Eden anymore, Dorothy.
Thus Yahweh arranged for His chosen people to demonstrate what the human condition is all about: yes, we are all slaves to sin in this world, but God is able to rescue us from our plight, if only we’ll trust Him. Unfortunately for Israel, their bondage would have to persist until their situation seemed hopelessly permanent to them. “Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt [that is, Joseph’s Pharaoh] died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.” (Exodus 2:23-25) It’s not that God had forgotten about them, but in order for their deliverance to have the intended impact on their lives (and ours), Israel would first have to endure the despair of “knowing” their situation was never going to change. That way, when it did change, they would logically not be able to ignore the One who had brought their deliverance about.
So Yahweh let Israel languish for four centuries in Egyptian dystopia. Their plight wasn’t lethal, exactly—it took the form of onerous work quotas they “owed” the government. But they also grew their own food and plied their own trades, raised their children and tended their flocks. Their situation wasn’t so hopeless that they felt armed insurrection or suicide were their only options. (It sort of reminds me of living in modern North America or Western Europe, where the total taxes levied upon you can easily add up to half your paycheck. Oops. It would appear that, financially anyway, many of us are living “in Egypt” these days, and we don’t even realize it.)
When the time was right, God raised up Moses to be their emancipator (or at least, their Emancipator’s spokesman), telling him, “I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am Yahweh. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” (Exodus 6:5-6) One of the lessons here is that Yahweh keeps His promises—though on His own schedule and in His own way. He had promised Abraham that the Land of Canaan would be his in perpetuity, and now that Israel knew beyond the shadow of a doubt what bondage in the world felt like, it was time to keep that promise. The hard reality for Israel, however, was that the world wouldn’t let them go without a fight: having half a million slaves doing their bidding—for free—meant that the Egyptians wouldn’t have to do the work themselves, or pay someone to do it for them. Keeping Israel enslaved meant suppressing the conscience of an entire nation until they no longer felt guilty about abusing the sojourners dwelling among them. Apparently, it’s not all that hard to do if there’s a buck in it.
Of course, Egyptian-style slavery is presented in scripture as a euphemism for bondage to sin—and to this day, we still see fortunes being made by keeping people enslaved to the things that separate them from God—whether through substance abuse, lust, greed, false religion, political corruption… use your imagination. As Paul told Timothy, “Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (II Timothy 3:1-5) These are all examples of sins common to our race. But lurking behind them are people willing to sell their humanity—their very souls—for profit. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (I Timothy 6:10)
When it was finally time to leave Egypt, “Moses said to the people: ‘Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand Yahweh brought you out of this place.’” (Exodus 13:3) “By strength of hand Yahweh brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (Exodus 13:14) That phrase, “the house of bondage,” is used quite often to describe the state Israel was leaving. “House” is the Hebrew noun bayit (or bayith). It is used to describe one’s dwelling or habitation—where we live. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament also notes, “it can be used of the king’s house, a prison, a treasury, but most significantly of a temple: the house of a deity.” This sheds some insight into how “the house of bondage” is symbolic of the “house of sin.” As a “king’s house,” sin rules over us. It is a “prison” from which escape is seemingly impossible. As “a treasury,” it is where our hard-earned money ends up going. And as “a temple,” the house of bondage-in-sin threatens to become a false god—a violation of the First, Second, and Third Commandments.
Illustrating the point, Moses says, “You shall stone [the one who says, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’] with stones until he dies, because he sought to entice you away from Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. So all Israel shall hear and fear, and not again do such wickedness as this among you.” (Deuteronomy 13:10-11) His point (besides the obvious) was that they had already left the house of bondage. To “serve other gods,” whether those of Egypt or Canaan, would have been tantamount to voluntarily returning to the status of slaves.
Freedom is a gift. But God doesn’t set us free in order to watch us starve to death: His liberty includes provision. And in the case of Israel, that went far beyond water and manna in the wilderness. It included unexpected (and unearned) perks in the Promised Land: “So it shall be, when Yahweh your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—then beware, lest you forget Yahweh who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” (Deuteronomy 6:10-12) It’s kind of funny, when you think about it. It is as if the Canaanite usurpers had spend the previous four hundred years functioning as slaves to the absentee Israelites (to whom God had given the land, whether they knew it or not)—building the infrastructure for them and planting orchards and vineyards.
Don’t take this the wrong way. We are not to honor Yahweh simply because He provides “free stuff,” like some corrupt liberal politician trying to buy our votes. But in giving us freedom from the bondage of sin, Yahweh gives us opportunity, open doors, fertile ground, the chance to reap the rewards of our own labors, and the tools to help us get the job done (intelligence, aptitude, curiosity, etc.). Even though “His yoke is easy and His burden is light,” laziness in God’s world is never presented as a virtue.
Because prosperity can so easily become a false and fickle “god,” Moses repeated the principle a couple of chapters later: “Beware that you do not forget Yahweh your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, when your heart is lifted up—you forget Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-14) The worst thing we can do is forget who provides for us, who bought our freedom with His own precious blood: “I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (Deuteronomy 5:6, cf. Exodus 20:2)
What our parents learned “the hard way” (through personal experience), we might learn through their testimony—oral traditions, so to speak. But our children as often as not have to learn those lessons “from scratch,” the way our parents did. All of this is an artifact of our Creator’s primary gift to humanity: free will, the privilege and responsibility of choice. We can learn the hard way (through bitter experience), or the easy way (through heeding the lessons of history). So after the wilderness wanderings were over, and Israel had finally entered the land, Moses’ protégé and successor, Joshua, laid it out for them: “‘If it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh….’”
They (unlike Joshua) hadn’t witnessed Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt with their own two eyes (though they had heard little else from their parents for the previous forty-plus years). But they had witnessed the initial victories God had provided within the Land of Promise—the most spectacular being that of the fall of Jericho. “So the people answered and said: ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake Yahweh to serve other gods; for Yahweh our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed.” (Joshua 24:15-17) As Israel’s bondage in Egypt faded into the realm of myth and folklore, the ongoing conquest of Canaan kept Yahweh’s power and provision at the forefront of their minds.
It was only after they had become somewhat settled in the Land that Israel became complacent and idolatrous (just as Moses had warned them). The Torah had been designed (among other things) to keep Yahweh at the forefront of their minds, and one gets the feeling that if they had kept Him there, all would have been well. But through neglect of God’s precepts, they “forgot Yahweh their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” And eventually, they found themselves overrun with Midianite and Amalekite pirates, who stripped the land bare, like locusts, for seven long years. So finally, the people cried out to Yahweh in their distress, and He heard them.
But what did He do first? He sent someone to remind them of their initial national experience with Yahweh: “Yahweh sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, ‘Thus says Yahweh, God of Israel: I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage, and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians.’” (Judges 6:8-9) The underlying thought was, There is more than one kind of bondage. You have traded forced labor in Egypt for Midianite terror in the Promised Land, because you have forgotten who God is. Gideon got the message, going on to lead Israel in repentance and victory.
The lessons ring true for us today. “Egypt” has been defeated: Yahshua, our Passover Lamb, has taken away the sin of the world. It is a spiritual fait accompli, if only we will choose to receive God’s gift of deliverance. But now that we’ve walked through the wilderness of preparation, have met and overcome the Canaanite “giants” facing us, and have gotten ourselves settled in the Promised Land—the life of the redeemed believer in this world—we must take care not grow complacent, lazy, or negligent.
In a way, Israel had fallen into the same self-righteous patterns as the pre-repentant Last Days church of Laodicea. Yahshua told the Laodiceans, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.” That is, they offered the world neither refreshment nor passion, only dead, tepid religion. “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” This is what the Promised Land would eventually do to Israel (as it had the Canaanites before them). The Laodiceans became like Egypt, in a way—the home of a “sustainable level” of bondage, of the illusion of righteousness, when in fact they were merely faking it: “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:15-17) At least the Israelites weren’t in denial about their plight.
We are rather urged to develop the profile of the church of Philadelphia, to whom Christ said, “See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it, for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name…. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (Revelation 3:8, 10-11) The Philadelphians have not grown complacent. They are firm in their beliefs—faithful guardians of the Word of God. Christ had nothing but praise for them, tempered by the admonition: hold on tight to My principles—it’s going to get a little bumpy as you await My return.
Canaan: Living under the Curse
We learned above (when discussing the Genesis 10 “Table of Nations”) that Canaan, a son of Ham and grandson of Noah, lent his name to the Levant—that is, the strip of land hugging the Eastern Mediterranean, from Turkey down to Egypt. This effectively separated the Canaanites (geographically) from their other Hamite brothers, who initially settled Africa and Arabia. I found this separation to be revealing, because Noah’s curse of Ham, due to his less-than-respectful reaction to his father’s unfortunate intoxication lapse, fell mainly on Canaan, Ham’s son: “Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan. A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.’ And he said, ‘Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant.” (Genesis 9:24-27)
It is therefore no coincidence that the land Abraham was promised by Yahweh to be his people’s earthly home was that which Canaan’s progeny had settled after the flood. That is, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not given Ham’s legacy—the continent of Africa—but “only” that of his wayward son, Canaan. Yahweh reminded Moses of this fact as the exodus was about to get underway: “And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Yahweh, I was not known to them. I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers.” (Exodus 6:2-4)
After receiving Yahweh’s Instructions at Mount Horeb, Israel should have been ready to receive the inheritance their father Abraham had been promised. So it was logical to send in an “advance team” to scope the place out. “Then Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, ‘Go up this way into the South [i.e., the Negev], and go up to the mountains, and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many, whether the land they dwell in is good or bad, whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds, whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land.’” (Numbers 13:17-20) God’s covenant said, “The Land of Canaan is yours. Go in and take it.” But ten of the twelve spies came back and said, in effect, “The job is too tough. We can’t do it.”
Nobody questioned the goodness of the Land, its desirability. But the ten faithless spies completely forgot what they had personally seen Yahweh do for them over the past couple of years—the ten plagues upon Egypt, their Red Sea deliverance, the miraculous provision of water and food in the wilderness, and the spectacular pyrotechnics accompanying the giving of the Law at Mount Horeb. The Israelites hadn’t supplied any of that. I realize they were new to this whole “freedom” thing, but they should have realized that nobody was suggesting that they had to conquer the Canaanites all by themselves, but rather to simply trust Yahweh for their inevitable victories.
And don’t look so pious, my American Conservative-Christian friends. We typically make the converse mistake: presuming that God will give us temporal victory over our godless liberal foes in these Last Days. He promised us no such thing, but rather tribulation, irrational hatred, persecution, false prophets, and apostasy in the world. We sometimes lose sight of the fact that we’re already living in Canaan—the life of the believer in the world. So He commanded us to patiently endure these trials, and promised us: “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10) That is a description of the Rapture of the Church. It’s not a retreat; it’s a strategic maneuver. While our “godless liberal foes” tear one another apart in our absence, we will be attending the Marriage Supper of the Lamb—in heaven. We’ll return when our King is good and ready. In the meantime, just know that Canaan is still cursed.
Ironically, Israel’s Promised Land was invariably referred to as “Canaan” for centuries after the conquest. “He is Yahweh our God. His judgments are in all the earth. He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance,’ When they were few in number, indeed very few, and strangers in it.” (Psalm 105:7-12) The curse of Canaan will endure until the King of Kings reigns over the earth.
Even in the most specific description of Israel’s borders in the entire Bible, it is called—you guessed it—the land of Canaan. “Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command the children of Israel, and say to them, when you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance—the land of Canaan to its boundaries.” (Numbers 34:1-2) “To its boundaries” means the whole thing: all of the offspring of Canaan were either to be slain in battle, driven out of the Land, or as Noah put it, “made the servants” of Shem and Japheth.
If you’re familiar with the salient scriptures, of course, you’ve noticed that there’s more to “Canaan” than just Canaan. Seven “nations” are named as specific targets: enemies of Israel within the Land of Promise. But this multiplicity of enemy nations Israel faced is something of an illusion. All of them, it turns out, are Canaanite sub-clans, named after descendants of Ham’s cursed son Canaan.
If we look at this with an eye toward sorting out the scriptural symbols, an interesting pattern emerges: (1) Seven is the number indicating completion or perfection—the totality of a subject. Seven nations are thus a statement of “the whole problem.” (2) Israel is God’s metaphorical microcosm of the whole human race: the challenges they faced are common to all of us, one way or another. Their history is recorded for our edification. (3) The Promised Land is symbolic not of heaven, but of the life of believers here on the earth—a land of milk and honey to be sure, but also where there are “nations greater and mightier than you,” and “giants in the Land,” whom we are expected to confront in the power of the Spirit of God. Therefore, it seems reasonable (to me, anyway) that (4) the names of Israel’s enemies within the Land might reveal something about the challenges a believer faces in this world—and more importantly, how Yahweh enables us to overcome them.
Let us, then, begin with the father of all the “official enemies” Israel faced within the Promised Land. Canaan became known as a nation of merchants and traders—greedily grasping at business opportunities, hence enticement to compromise. But that’s not what the name means. “Canaan” is derived from the primitive verb kana’, meaning “to be humbled, subdued, humiliated, or made low.” Thus Yahweh is telling us that if we trust Him, His enemies will never succeed in subduing us, in bringing us into subjection. We are reminded of the words of Christ: “On this rock [Peter’s foundational epiphany that Yahshua was ‘the Christ, the Son of the Living God’] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
We’ll discuss the other family designations as we reach them in our study. For now, let us consider them as a group, with an eye toward understanding what Israel was instructed to do to them—and why. “Of the cities of these peoples which Yahweh your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as Yahweh your God has commanded you, lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against Yahweh your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18) A “city” (Hebrew: iyr) is a fortified abode of men (apparently to be distinguished from an undefended village). Strong’s notes: “[Iyr is] from uwr; a city (a place guarded by waking or a watch) in the widest sense (even of a mere encampment or post).” Uwr is a verb that means “to rouse oneself, stir, or awaken.” The idea seems to be (in this case), a place whose inhabitants are “woke” (to use the contemporary terminology) in support of their pagan religious abominations. Bottom line: anyone in the Land of Canaan who was willing to defend or endorse his pagan lifestyle was to be terminated. (America, you may want to pay attention here.)
Theology.edu explains: “Why were the Canaanites singled out for such severe treatment? They were cut off to prevent Israel and the rest of the world from being corrupted. When a people starts to burn their children in honor of their gods, practice sodomy, bestiality, and all sorts of loathsome vice, the land itself begins to ‘vomit’ them out as the body heaves under the load of internal poisons. Thus, objection to the fate of these nations… is really an objection to the highest manifestation of the grace of God….” Grace, it must be noted, consists not of being tolerant or supportive of what God calls “sin,” but of giving the sinner ample opportunity to repent from it.
“The religion of the Canaanite peoples was a crude and debased form of ritual polytheism. It was associated with sensuous fertility-cult worship of a particularly lewd and orgiastic kind, which proved to be more influential than any other nature religion in the ancient near east…. The Ugaritic literature has helped reveal the depth of depravity which characterized Canaanite religion. Being a polytheism of an extremely debased type, Canaanite cultic practice was barbarous and thoroughly licentious. It inevitably had a most serious retarding and debilitating effect on every phase of Canaanite cultural and community life. It was inescapable that people should gravitate to the moral level of the sordid gods they worshipped, or rather that the gods were a reflection of their society.”
Wikipedia lists 52 separate Canaanite “gods,” several of whom receive specific condemnations in Scriptural: Ba’al (which means “Lord”); Asherah (a.k.a. Ishtar—the word from which “Easter” is derived); Chemosh (a.k.a. Moloch, a.k.a. Milcom); and Dagon. Particularly sneaky is their use of “El” or “Elyon,” not to be confused with the generic Hebrew word for God or mighty one: Elohim (the emphatic form of Eloah), used 2,598 times in the Tanakh, or the short form, El, used 248 times. It all goes to demonstrate why using the real God’s self-revealed name, Yahweh, is so important—and why it was used in the Hebrew Scriptures some 7,000 times. (The travesty that His name was edited out of most English Bible versions, replaced with an anemic title, “the Lord,” is an abomination I’ve harped on many times before, and will again, no doubt.)
If you’re sharp, you noticed that the listing of Canaanite clans in the Deuteronomy 20 quote above, only listed six of them. The missing group (the Girgashites) is included, however, in a similar instruction concerning them earlier in Deuteronomy: “When Yahweh your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when Yahweh your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them….” “Casting out” the Canaanites, as is made clear here and elsewhere, was an option. The Israelites didn’t have to track them down and kill them if they left the Promised Land voluntarily. Of course, each of these seven nations was “greater and mightier” than Israel (if you didn’t factor in the power of Yahweh), so they usually chose to stay and fight. Yahweh takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked—He would rather they turned from their wicked ways. But the point of clearing the Land of Canaanites was ensuring the holiness—the “setting apart”—of Israel within their promised land.
So Moses describes the pitfalls of coexistence: “Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of Yahweh will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.” (Deuteronomy 7:1-5) Even when the Canaanites were gone, Israel was to leave no trace of their lascivious pagan religion, for if they did, it could easily become a snare to them. To me, this is all reminiscent of the Last Days demise of “Babylon,” described in detail in excruciating Revelation. “And I [John] heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Revelation 18:4-5)
When Abram first settled in the Land, two groups were singled out as its primary inhabitants: “The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.” (Genesis 13:7) But after he separated from his nephew Lot, “Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt [that is, the “Brook of Egypt, a.k.a., the Wadi El Arish] to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18-21) You’ll note that the list of the inhabitants of the land included a few groups beside the “Big Seven” of Deuteronomy 7.
It is unclear as to why these nations were not included in later lists. The Kenites seem to be closely associated with the Amalekites and Midianites, who were both located south of the Land of Canaan near Egypt (thus not included in the Conquest list). So perhaps some migration or assimilation took place between Abram’s day and the Exodus. The Kenezzites were best known as an Edomite tribe, from which Caleb’s ancestry was derived, but of course that would make the name totally unfamiliar to Abram, since Kenaz was his own yet-to-be-born great grandson. So these Kenezzites appear to be a separate group entirely, their heritage unknown. Nobody seems to know anything about the Kadmonites, either, except that their name means “eastern.” The Rephaim were apparently a race of giants, closely associated with the Perizzites.
By the way, the Philistines don’t appear on any of these “Promised Land” lists, simply because they didn’t arrive in the Levant until the 12th century BC, halfway through the period of the Judges. Though pagans, they were descendants of Mizraim (Egypt), and did not share quite the same degree of depravity as the original Canaanite settlers. They were wiped out not by the Israelites, but by the Babylonians, in 604 BC, after centuries of subjugation under the Assyrians.
(1) So to recap: The name “Canaan” is derived from the primitive verb kana’, meaning “to be humbled, subdued, humiliated, or made low.” Thus Yahweh is telling us that if we’ll trust Him, His accursed enemies will never succeed in subduing us, in bringing us into subjection.
(2) The Hittites are descendants of Heth, apparently the second son of Canaan, and a grandson of Ham. “Heth” means “terror,” from a verb (chathath) meaning “to be shattered or dismayed.” So Yahweh is saying we need not be afraid.
This victory over the metaphorical Hittites is thus expressed by the Psalmist: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of Yahweh, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge. His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you.” (Psalm 91:1-7)
The Hittite empire was centered to the north of the Levant, in modern-day Turkey (i.e., Anatolia), but by Abraham’s day they had colonized large areas in the Levant and Syria. They were once a mighty nation, but between internal corruption and Assyrian exile, they disappeared so completely that their frequent Biblical mentions led some 19th century “scholars” to label the Hebrew scriptures a fraud. Subsequent archeological finds, however, have proved the scholars to be the frauds.
(3) The Girgashites were also descendants of Canaan. The name means “dwelling on a clayey soil.” “Clayey” soil is nutrient-poor, unproductive, and hard as a rock, like the “stony places” in Christ’s parable of the sower: “Some [seed] fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away….” He later explained: “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. Yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” (Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21) That is, where the seed couldn’t develop deep roots, it tended to shrivel up and die.
Yahweh is thus telling us that through the “defeat of the Girgashites,” we can be productive and fruitful. As Paul would put it, “You, being rooted and grounded in love, [are] able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
(4) The Amorites’ name is derived from the verb amar, meaning “to say, speak, command, boast, or avow.” I believe Yahweh is saying we can “dispossess” empty speech. That is, believers will, by “conquering the Amorites,” be able to discern fact from fiction, truth from lies, even as those around us are being deceived. So Paul’s admonition to Timothy is germane: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.” (II Timothy 2:15-16)
But it must be noted, the veracity of one’s speech (or lack of it) may take a while to become evident. As Abram received his covenant from Yahweh, he was told, “Your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years…. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:13, 16) God is patient, but He is also on a schedule.
(5) The Perizzites’ name is derived from paraziy, meaning one who dwells in a village, hamlet, rural setting, or in the open country—that is, one who lives unprotected by a city wall. The lesson is: God will never leave us unprotected. To revisit Psalm 91: “Because you have made Yahweh, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:9-12)
(6) The Hivites at first seem to mean something similar to the Perizzites. It means “villagers,” from a word, chavvah, meaning “a village, town or tent-village.” But notice that Chavvah (spelled and pronounced the same way) is also the name of the person we usually call “Eve,” as in Adam’s wife, the one who was first deceived by Satan. Could it be that Yahweh was telling us that we will no longer be deceived into sin if we will keep His commandments? Sounds good to me.
Again, Paul’s letter to Timothy sheds light on the subject. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived….” And how are we to avoid being deceived? By immersing ourselves in the Word. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:12, 16-17)
Finally, (7) The Jebusites were another Canaanite tribe, named for Jebus, from a verb (bus) meaning to tread down, trample, reject, or desecrate. Yahweh is once again reminding us that no one will tread His children underfoot if they will keep His precepts.
King David was no stranger to sin and repentance, but he also knew what it was to be unfairly accused. He writes, “O Yahweh my God, in You I put my trust. Save me from all those who persecute me…. O Yahweh my God, if I have done this, if there is iniquity in my hands, if I have repaid evil to him who was at peace with me, or have plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue me and overtake me. Yes, let him trample my life to the earth, and lay my honor in the dust…. Yahweh shall judge the peoples. Judge me, O Yahweh, according to my righteousness, and according to my integrity within me.” Any “integrity” we have, of course, is borrowed from God—which is not to say it isn’t real. “Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just. For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds. My defense is of God, who saves the upright in heart.” (Psalm 7:1, 3-5, 8-10)
So if my observations concerning Israel’s conquest of Canaan and its clans have any validity at all, we are being told—we are being promised—that God’s accursed enemies will never succeed in subduing us, in bringing us into subjection, no matter how much they’d like to or how hard they try. We therefore need not be afraid of anything they might try to do to us. Rather, we can be productive and fruitful as we walk through this lost world, if only we will heed Yahweh’s instructions. With the insight provided by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we believers will be able to perceive the truth, even as the whole lost world runs after ever more ridiculous lies. With Godly wisdom, we will be able to discern fact from fiction and reality from falsehood. Though the whole world around us is being deceived, we believers will not fall prey to the world’s deception. God will never leave us unprotected, and no one will succeed in treading His children underfoot.
In other words, Satan’s “successes” in our world are mere illusions. He may be able to mess with our mortal bodies, but our spirit-quickened souls are invulnerable to his attacks. But there is a caveat: we must go out and “fight the Canaanites.” We can’t just roll over and play dead, like the Israelite tribe of Dan did when faced with a tough adversary (see Judges 18). The battle belongs to Yahweh, but we have to at least show up.
Babylon: Systematic Idolatry
Noah had no “religion.” That is, he simply “walked with God” through life, day by day, doing whatever Yahweh told him to do. He was not unfamiliar with the concept of animal sacrifices, however. Yahweh had instructed him to bring aboard the ark seven of every clean animal and bird (i.e., suitable for both food and sacrifices), so even without benefit of the Torah’s dietary laws, Noah knew which animals were which. Thus after the flood, we read: “Then Noah built an altar to Yahweh, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” At the very least, Noah understood the principle—first presented in Eden—that without the shedding of innocent blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins. God’s response? “And Yahweh smelled a soothing aroma. Then Yahweh said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.’” (Genesis 8:20-21)
As time passed, the human population grew. After leaving the ark, God’s very first instruction to mankind had been to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1) So what did we do? We got it half right. “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed toward the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’” (Genesis 11:1-4) God had told us to “fill the earth.” The people responded by saying, “No. We’re going to hang out together and impress ourselves with our greatness.”
Shinar (a.k.a. Sumer), in the southern Tigris/Euphrates river valley, is where Ham’s grandson Nimrod built his cities: Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh. Then, in the days of Peleg (i.e., two generations after Nimrod founded his false religion), this happened: “But Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And Yahweh said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing [evil] that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there Yahweh confused the language of all the earth; and from there Yahweh scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:5-9)
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes: “All of this [i.e., the scriptural/historical mentions of Shinar] points to a sinister significance for Shinar as being the major center for the development of a culture and civilization built on counterfeit religion, rebelliousness against the true God and His revealed word, the cradle of imperial tyranny and the enemy of God’s people—in short, the epitome of wickedness.” The city where the “tower to the heavens” was built was called Babel, which means “the gate of god” in the original Sumerian tongue, but in Hebrew it means (ironically enough) “confusion.” It is the same thing as its later permutation, Babylon, the -on suffix denoting the conceptual nature of the word (as in the distinction between sabbath and sabbaton—the observance of a sabbath rest, even if it didn’t fall on the seventh day of the week). The region the city-state eventually controlled was known as Babylonia. Babel/Babylon is mentioned 262 times in the Hebrew scriptures, and the Greek variant, Babulón, shows up twelve times in the New Testament.
The city first rose to prominence in the 1700s BC under Hammurabi (famous for his legal code), but was in later times held in check by the rival Assyrians. In fact, the city was destroyed by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 689 BC, but was rebuilt by his successor, Esarhaddon. The Chaldeans revived their influence in Babylonia under Nabopolassar, and the neo-Babylonian empire flourished under his successor Nebuchadnezzar II, who took Judah in 605 BC, and destroyed Jerusalem, with its temple, in 586. Jeremiah had written, “And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:11) By the end of the seventy years, the Medes and Persians had taken Babylon (see Daniel 5), and King Cyrus of Persia (circa 536) allowed the Judean captives to return if they wished (see Ezra 1) to rebuild the temple.
In time, Babylon the magnificent city became a Biblical metaphor for the licentious paganism that sprang from it, copied and recycled in a hundred variations all over the known world. So Jeremiah, who lived to see neo-Babylon rise to power and enslave Israel’s southern kingdom of Judah, wrote: “Flee from the midst of Babylon, and every one save his life! Do not be cut off in her iniquity, for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance; He shall recompense her. Babylon was a golden cup in Yahweh’s hand, that made all the earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore the nations are deranged. Babylon has suddenly fallen and been destroyed. Wail for her! Take balm for her pain. Perhaps she may be healed. We would have healed Babylon, But she is not healed.” That is, free will is part of the formula. “Forsake her, and let us go everyone to his own country, for her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies. Yahweh has revealed our righteousness. Come and let us declare in Zion the work of Yahweh our God.” (Jeremiah 51:6-10) Was he talking about the city or its counterfeit religion? The answer is yes—both things. But remember those words. John would write something very similar about the “Babylon” that still exists in our day—millennia after the city had been reduced to the status of a ghost town, a mere shadow of its former self. We’ll review his revelation in a moment.
Jeremiah continues: “I will punish Bel [a false god] in Babylon, and I will bring out of his mouth what he has swallowed. And the nations shall not stream to him anymore. Yes, the wall of Babylon shall fall.…” The political conquest of Babylon took place in 539 BC, though the actual city wall stood for centuries. “Therefore behold, the days are coming that I will bring judgment on the carved images of Babylon. Her whole land shall be ashamed, and all her slain shall fall in her midst. Then the heavens and the earth and all that is in them shall sing joyously over Babylon, for the plunderers shall come to her from the north,” says Yahweh.” (Jeremiah 51:44, 47-48) Note his emphasis on the “carved images” of Babylon—not on her military prowess.
So Babylon was not only a real, historical city-state on the Euphrates River—what we’d call a “superpower” in Nebuchadnezzar’s day—but it has also become a pervasive Biblical symbol for the systematic worship of anything that is not Yahweh. Its counterfeit trinity was based on three historical characters: Nimrod, his wife Semiramis, and her son Tammuz. The names morphed from place to place, but Nimrod always played the role of the “father” figure, Semiramis was the “earth-mother,” the goddess of fertility, and Tammuz (born near the winter solstice) was the false Christ, marketed as the sun god, the conqueror of winter’s darkness. The evil Canaanite religion (described briefly above) was but one of many permutations of Babylonian paganism.
The prophet Isaiah wrote about Babylon long before it was a major player on the geopolitical scene: “The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw…. Wail, for the day of Yahweh is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, every man’s heart will melt, and they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them. They will be in pain as a woman in childbirth. They will be amazed at one another: their faces will be like flames….” The conquest of the city of Babylon could hardly have been called “the Day of Yahweh.” The Medes diverted the Euphrates so they could sneak in under the wall with a small commando force, opened the gates from the inside, and took the city virtually without firing a shot. So think beyond the Medo-Persian conquest of the city. Isaiah has bigger fish to fry:
“Behold, the day of Yahweh comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate, and He will destroy its sinners from it.” Is Yahweh ever “cruel”? No, but the “day of Yahweh” will be. That’s because His customary modus operandi in dispensing wrath is to simply step out of the way and allow sinful man to exercise his evil nature: man’s inhumanity toward man. “For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light. The sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine….” Atmospheric anomalies severe enough to block the sunlight were a bit beyond the capabilities of the Medes.
Like I said, think bigger: “I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of Yahweh of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger….” Punish the world? Make mortal man an endangered species? As bad as it has gotten in the past, this hasn’t happened in human history, at least since Noah’s flood. But it is predicted all over scripture in great detail, apparently scheduled for our not-too-distant future. It’s called the Tribulation, the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” the final seven years of the Daniel 9 prophecy. And Babylon’s ultimate fall is one of its major accomplishments: “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation.” (Isaiah 13:1, 6-13, 19-20)
The city has been gone for some time. What God is talking about here, in admittedly poetic terms, is the permanent demise of spiritual Babylon—the metaphorical home of every permutation of false worship and counterfeit religion in the entire world. “Babylon is fallen, is fallen! And all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground.” (Isaiah 21:9) Notice again that Isaiah stresses the demise of “the carved images of her gods,” not the military or political might of one short-lived city-state in Mesopotamia.
Half a millennium after Babylon city had seen her glory days fade into vapor, the apostle John was shown what would happen to her cultural legacy—where she has been doing untold damage to the human race: “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’ And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’” (Revelation 14:6-8) The angel quotes Isaiah here (and not for the last time). The choice is clear at last: either worship the true and living God, Yahweh, or continue to buy into Babylon’s lies. Just know that Babylon’s days are numbered: she is as good as “fallen,” even though most of the world doesn’t even realize she is (or ever was) in control of so much.
We learn more about her in Revelation 17: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’ So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns….” The “scarlet beast,” it will transpire, is the Antichrist, who “will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition.” (v.8) The “woman” begins in a position of power, “sitting on” the beast. But this condition (which has been the case virtually since the days of Nimrod) is about to change.
The angel repeatedly mentions one characteristic of Babylon that we should explore: what is “fornication” in this context? Dictionary.com defines it as “voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other.” But they also note, quite rightly, that in the Biblical sense, it means idolatry. It is giving your affection—your love—to someone not your spouse. In that regard, it is the opposite of holiness—which is being “set apart” to the One to whom you owe your very life. In fornication, there is no commitment, no validity, no future. Any “children” born of such a union are illegitimate bastards: a burden, not a blessing. A harlot (prostitute, whore) makes her living luring men into just such short-term dead-end relationships. So we are not surprised to learn that ritual prostitution (both male and female) was a central feature of the Babylonian mystery religion. And how were the “unplanned pregnancies” dealt with? Through Moloch worship, in which the unfortunate offspring of the licentious union were burned alive in honor of a false god.
So John’s angel continues: “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” So the “woman” is specifically identified as “Babylon.” Her “greatness” is not because she is good, but because of her immense cultural influence. She has grown filthy rich over the ages by, well, being filthy. An “abomination” (whether in Hebrew or Greek) is the strongest language in the Bible. Here, the word is bdelguma, meaning a detestable, abominable, accursed thing. Helps Word-Studies notes that it is from the Greek bdeo, “to reek with stench,” that which “emits a four odor and hence is disgustingly abhorrent… figuratively: moral horror as a stench to God.” Why? John explains: “I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.” (Revelation 17:1-6) The “life is in the blood,” and this foul creature has been guzzling the life-blood of God’s people for as long as anybody can remember, whether Christian or pre-Christian.
The angel continues his explanation: “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. [Waters or the sea, we are reminded, speak of gentile nations: the harlot controls them.] And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. [Though this nasty woman starts out in control of the beast/Antichrist, he and his allies will get the upper hand and destroy her. As usual, Yahweh is seen “using” one evil to eradicate another.] And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.’” (Revelation 17:15-18) At this point in history (the Last Days), Babylon can’t really be confined to a single “city.” Rather, she is a worldwide phenomenon, and has been for a long time. But if we think of a “city” as John knew them, the picture becomes clear: a “city” is a system—self-contained, self-interested, and prepared to defend itself against all perceived enemies.
How is this woman, Babylon, this pervasive city-system, able to “reign over the kings of the earth”? As you may have surmised, in these Last Days, Babylon is not just one thing, but several, working together to separate humanity from Yahweh our Creator.
(1) We have already looked (briefly) at the religious angle—at how Nimrod’s mystery religion came to insinuate itself into the worship practices of men worldwide. At its heart, “religion” is the practice of people reaching out to god (whatever they might conceive him to be), of observing their obviously fallen nature and hypothesizing what he (or she, or they) must require from us to achieve reconciliation, atonement, or at least “peace.” Believe it or not, this is not a good thing.
Most people don’t really want to share a personal relationship with their “god” of choice. They merely want him to go away and leave them alone. So appeasement becomes the goal—celestial bribery. Sometimes it’s doing something, like killing or enslaving your “god’s” self-proclaimed enemies; or decorating a cow with flowers and making a shrine in your dwelling where you can present food offerings to him. Or, it could be not doing something: trying to earn your salvation by refraining from certain activities your conscience is telling you are wrong. If you fail (and you always do), there are always alms and penance with which to impress your “god” with your devotion. Or, at least, that’s what your religion’s priest swears to be true. And sometimes, one gets tired of all the self-imposed rules, and simply declares that “there is no god, and therefore, the sin for which I feel so guilty must be an illusion.” All of these things are part of Babylon. (See The End of the Beginning, Appendix 11: “The Faith Factor,” for a more complete discussion of the subject.)
In contrast, instead of trying to figure out what God must want, one could simply heed what He actually said: trust Him for your salvation, reciprocate His love, and demonstrate it by loving your fellow man. Don’t “reach out” to God: rather, welcome and receive Him as He reaches out to you. In other words, believe in Him.
I’d have to include a few other modern innovations in the same “shopping cart” with religious Babylon. These are things that affect “what we believe,” shaping our world-view, often without us even realizing it. One of these factors is Academia—how we educate ourselves. When I attended college back in the 1960s, there was already a subtle undercurrent of Babylonian thought—of encouragement to abandon faith in lieu of reason (as if they were mutually exclusive entities). Today, there’s nothing subtle about it. Worse, the devil’s agenda now targets young, impressionable children. Another factor is the electronic media, including news and entertainment—how we choose to be advised and enlightened in the information age. Most of it is blatantly Babylonian these days: calculated to marginalize God’s Word. Let the viewer beware: garbage in, garbage out.
(2) The second component of the Babylonian world-view is finance and commerce. As Paul reminded Timothy, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (I Timothy 6:10) While this has always been the case, there have been some innovations over the past several hundred years that have allowed “the love of money” to take on Babylonian proportions. Fractional Reserve Banking (an institution’s ability to issue paper money far in excess of its actual gold reserves) was invented by England’s William of Orange in 1694. It has since grown to gargantuan dimensions: virtually every nation on earth “owes its soul” to what are now known as “central banks,” private corporations authorized by their various governments to control and regulate their money supply. “A central bank is an institution that manages the currency and monetary policy of a state or formal monetary union [like the E.U., for example], and oversees their commercial banking system. In contrast to a commercial bank, a central bank possesses a monopoly on increasing the monetary base.”—Wikipedia.
If all of that sounds like a really bad idea to you, you’re starting to get the picture. The fox now holds the mortgage on the hen house. Those “dollars” you carry in your wallet aren’t U.S. Treasury promissory notes anymore. Now they’re Federal Reserve Notes, and the wealth they represent is created out of thin air from debt, deceit, and the false hope that nobody will catch on to the scam—which, as I said, is now a worldwide Ponzi scheme. That’s right: the whore of Babylon now controls the world’s entire money supply, which explains the phenomenon of inflation: what set you back a hundred dollars in 2000 would have cost only $3.84 in 1900. Things aren’t getting more expensive: the dollar (along with every other form of currency in existence) is losing value—by design.
The other side of this coin is commerce—the manufacture, buying, and selling of goods and services. This has been going on since Cain traded a big basket of vegetables to Abel for a young goat—virtually since the dawn of human history. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it; and yet, taken to its logical end, there are potential problems. Several nations or city-states (which we’ll consider in a moment) are taken to task in scripture for their pride—the result of riches amassed from commercial enterprise. It’s not inevitable, mind you, but greed-driven pride is a common outcome of success, leading Yahweh to single out such city-states as Tyre and Sidon for condemnation.
(3) Finally, we see Babylon’s reach in human governments, especially in their military capabilities. Today, there is no country on earth that isn’t ruled by some sort of government, whether by a despot, oligarch, or democratically elected system. Man, in other words, has taken it upon himself to rule over men: something God never authorized. The theory is that the only possible alternative is lawless anarchy—everybody “doing what seemed right in his own eyes.” (See Judges 21:25.) The preferred alternative, of course, is theocracy, everyone doing what was right in God’s eyes, but the “problem” there is that since man is a creature endowed with free will, rebellion against God is always an option. And then there’s the identity factor: the human race can’t seem to agree on who God is. Based on what their followers believe, Yahweh, Allah, Brahma, and Zeus have radically different agendas.
It is revealing to study how God Himself set things up. Elsewhere, I wrote, “Under Yahweh’s direct rule, Israel had no king. They were personally—as well as nationally—responsible to observe God’s instructions, the Torah. No man ruled over them. Yes, there were Levites and a priesthood, but they held no civil power. The Torah had no enforcement provision other than the people’s responsibility to obey Yahweh. There was no governmental infrastructure, no standing army, no police force, no prisons, no bureaucracy, no state-supported palaces, and no diplomatic corps. Whatever ‘leaders’ arose did so by virtue of their demonstrable wisdom, ability, and experience: ‘leadership’ was defined as service rendered, not status attained.” In theocratic Israel, the nation was simply required to follow Yahweh’s Instructions. When they did, they were blessed (as promised in Deuteronomy 28), but when they did not, He allowed foreign powers to mess with them. When they cried out to Him, He raised up local “judges” to lead them back to Him, and when it came to that, lead them in battle.
The last of these judges was Samuel. Under protest, he presided over Israel’s foolish transition from a theocracy to a monarchy. “All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.’” As the judge Gideon had discovered, you couldn’t pass on the office of Judge to your offspring. It didn’t work that way: it was a calling, not a birthright. Monarchies, on the other hand, came with dynasties, for better or worse. “But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ So Samuel prayed to Yahweh. And Yahweh said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.’” (I Samuel 8:4-9)
Israel had spent the previous four centuries without a human king, and as long as they’d honored Yahweh, all had gone well for them. This, then, was going to be a long, painful lesson in “Be careful what you wish for: you just might get it.” “So Samuel told all the words of Yahweh to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, ‘This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers….’” I realize that slavery in Egypt was but a hazy institutional memory by this time, but what they were asking for was Egyptian-style work quotas. The king could demand service of his subjects for anything he wanted, and they’d have to comply. And then it got worse: my generation came to loathe something called “the draft.” Likewise, Samuel’s people had no idea how much it would cost them—in both coin and blood—to field a standing army. Nor did they understand that the king could use this army for any reason he liked: for offensive purposes as well as for defense; for legitimate reasons or blatant paranoia. And the people would no longer have a say in the matter.
And it would get even worse: legalized theft—excuse me: taxes. “And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and Yahweh will not hear you in that day….” That last line is heartbreaking. Yahweh says, “Don’t bother praying to Me to deliver you from your self-imposed oppression: you asked for this.”
“Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’” (I Samuel 8:10-20) After only three generations of “getting what they said they wanted,” Israel was ripped in two. The ten northern tribes revolted against Solomon’s heir Rehoboam (circa 930 BC). For the hapless inhabitants of Israel (a.k.a. Samaria or Ephraim—the ten northern tribes), it was “out of the frying pan, into the fire.” They never again had a single good (i.e., godly) king, like David had been. Not one. The Assyrians swallowed them whole less than two hundred years later. The Southern Kingdom (Judah) had twenty kings between the schism and their captivity in Babylon. Only eight of them could be called “good.” And they never had more than two godly kings in succession.
I think it’s safe to say that Samuel’s warning about the problem with kings had been vindicated. Human government has proved itself at every turn to be less than ideal—in a word, “Babylonian.” Even (arguably) the best form of government ever invented by man, the American Republic, is, after only two and a half centuries, fraying around the edges, showing its fatal flaws. A Constitution (like the Torah) is worthless if nobody pays attention to it. Perhaps the worst “flaw” of all is our mandate to create new laws, as if truth and justice were a moving target.
Babylon—in any of its permutations—will not endure forever. An angel told John what we can expect, fleshing out what Isaiah had hinted at centuries earlier. “I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen [cf. Isaiah 21:9], and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury….’”
The demise of every incarnation of the whore of Babylon is included within this imprecation. “Fornication” speaks of the religious side of things—of giving to false gods what properly belongs to Yahweh alone: our affection, devotion, obedience, gratitude, and even our alms.
Meanwhile, the “kings of the earth,” human governments, have for millennia “been in bed” with the purveyors of false worship, for it is only by playing footsie with their nation’s “god du jour” that they can maintain control and increase their power (the kings’ real gods). It matters not who the false deity is: the pattern is always the same. From Jezebel’s priests of Ba’al, to the self-deified emperors of Rome, to the caricature of Christ utilized by the Roman Catholic kings of the Middle Ages, to the caliphs, sultans, and mullahs of Allah, to the political purveyors of Darwinian secular humanism—the “kings” of the earth have always carried on incestuous relationships with whatever false gods their lost populations were willing to follow.
And the “merchants of the earth” have been all too happy to feast like greedy parasites on the spoils, supplying whatever the politicians and religious professionals required to stay in power. In a moment, we’ll look at what the inventory list looked like in John’s day—luxury goods, for the most part, calculated to grease the mechanism of pride, to separate the exalted “haves” from the lowly “have nots” who are ultimately required to foot the bill. Today, we might include other things that tend to keep the powerful in power: armaments, the drug trade (legal and otherwise), the entertainment industry, and the ministry of propaganda (excuse me, the 24-hour news cycle)—the list could go on practically forever.
What are we, who find ourselves living under Babylon’s thumb, to do? “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” This is admittedly hard to do, when the whore of Babylon controls virtually everything on earth. But we can, right here where we are, refuse to participate, to whatever extent God enables us. Don’t buy the lies; don’t play their game. (Of course, the ultimate way for God’s people to “come out of her” will be to participate in the rapture!) “For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.’” (Revelation 18:1-8)
I don’t believe God is telling us believers to personally attack Babylon’s power structure (“repay her double,” etc.). Rather, I think He is simply revealing what her destiny is: she will be repaid—poetically enough, by the world she dominated for so long. Sometime after the rapture of the church (though the time gap is left unspecified in scripture), the Tribulation will get underway. The first four seal judgments of Revelation 6—often referred to as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”—are, in summary, (1) the rise of the Antichrist, (2) world war, (3) extreme scarcity on the earth—especially in terms of food, and (4) the death of a quarter of the earth’s population. Together, these drastic and unprecedented developments should be sufficient to unseat Babylon.
But the trick is the timing: “in one day.” She is so well entrenched, so seemingly inviolable, what could possibly knock her off her pedestal of power so suddenly? The key, it would seem, is the phrase “utterly burned with fire.” In the first of the “Trumpet Judgments,” we are told, “The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.” (Revelation 8:7) Isaiah saw it too: “The curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, And few men are left.” (Isaiah 24:6) I believe this is a description of widespread nuclear war. If I were “pushing the buttons,” among my very first targets would be the world’s major trading centers, such as New York, London, or Hong Kong. Taking them out would have a ripple effect throughout all strata of society. Cities with world-class harbors would also be prime targets. If you can cut off world trade, you can cripple Babylon—and that is precisely what the Antichrist wants to do (see Revelation 17:16).
Why? Because he covets control over the earth’s population. As long as Babylon is in charge, the Antichrist will never see his dream of personal world domination come to fruition, for they are rivals at heart, though both are satanic to the core. That is one of the reasons I see World War III taking place during the first half of the Tribulation (an escalation of the Gog-Magog war of Ezekiel 38-39). I have come to the conclusion that this nuclear war will be mistaken for “Armageddon.” And the Antichrist, still standing when the smoke clears, will be hailed throughout much of the world as the promised “Messiah.” That’s right: the whole thing is a blatant counterfeit of Christ’s second coming. In-depth Biblical knowledge, you’ll recall, departed with the saints at the rapture. All that’s left now is folklore and half-truth, which the Antichrist will use to his advantage. His three and a half year reign will begin about halfway through the Tribulation—after World War III. (See The End of the Beginning, elsewhere on this website, for the complete story.)
Remember: Babylon encompasses three different (but interrelated) profiles: religious (what people believe); governmental (what people submit to); and commercial (what people want). The Antichrist will have to control all of this if he hopes to rule the world. So as we pick up the narrative in Revelation 18, we see how the destruction of Babylon’s infrastructure will leave the whole world in turmoil, ripe for the taking. “The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come….’” Here we see the collapse of human government, who can no longer pretend to have things “under control.” The practical result will be total anarchy, the breakdown of society, the forsaking of the rule of law.
It will be like the days of the Judges of Israel, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” except that in the Last Days, hardly anyone is self-sufficient, growing his own food, and so forth. We all have to get what we need (or merely want) from somewhere else. When Babylon falls, most of the population who is “lucky” enough to have evaded the weapons of war will have to either steal or starve. Nobody will be making, growing, transporting, or selling the things people ordinarily buy. The world’s economy will collapse: “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men….” That’s what the list looked like in first-century language. Think of it as including media of exchange (money), clothing, building materials, food and beverages, fuel, drugs and cosmetics, transportation, armaments, and human resources.
That last entry, “the bodies and souls of men,” is particularly cringeworthy. For decades now, America’s “merchants” (read: manufacturers) have been closing down their factories in this country and setting up new ones in the far east and elsewhere. Why? Because first-world labor is expensive. If someone in Chicago can buy a pair of blue jeans or sneakers made with sweat-shop labor in Indonesia, or a laptop computer made by robots in China for half the price, he’s going to do it. So the factories that used to make such things here can’t compete. But when Babylon is destroyed, all such commerce will cease. When the markets dry up, the “bodies and souls of men” will have outlived their usefulness. Even in places World War III didn’t touch, the economic toll will be devastating.
No one will prosper. “The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city [read: “system”] that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing….’” The “riches came to nothing” because every form of currency on the face of the earth has collapsed, having been based (as I said above) on little more than debt and false hope.
Here again, the Antichrist will have something ready with which to replace Babylon Bucks: the “mark of the beast” is designed to do everything money used to under the Babylonian system, but with greater security, convenience, and stability—and it functions worldwide, not just nationally. Or so it says in the brochure. I’d characterize it as the offspring of today’s cryptocurrency, defined as: “any form of currency that exists digitally or virtually and uses cryptography to secure transactions. Cryptocurrencies don’t have a central issuing or regulating authority, instead using a decentralized system to record transactions and issue new units.”—Kaspersky.com.
In other words, cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin) are financial anarchy. The reason people like the idea, I’m guessing, is that they aren’t regulated and controlled by Babylonian central banks. It’s the wild west out there. My hypothesis is that the Antichrist will reign in the madness and volatility of today’s crypto, make it part of the user (via a tiny electronic RFID chip implanted in the right hand or the forehead), and require its use as the only “legal” form of money on planet Earth. All it will take to implement “the mark” is a working power grid and Internet, and a world populace desperate for some semblance of normalcy. Except for the overt Satanic oath of loyalty that will be required, the “mark” will look like God’s gift to mankind—and scripture informs us that billions of people (believing in neither God nor the devil) will buy into it in order to survive.
Anyway, back to the saga of Babylon’s demise. Even the transporters of Babylon’s wares have been left high and dry. “Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’ They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate….’” Imagine the scenario: you’re the owner or captain of a container ship or tanker, loaded and headed for a port in a country that no longer makes what you’re shipping, whether because of short-sighted economic policies, runaway political correctness, or simple greed. And you discover enroute that (1) nuclear war has broken out; (2) the port to which you were headed isn’t there anymore; and (3) the currency has collapsed, leaving you holding the bag.
Remember too that “the sea” is (or can be) symbolic of the whole gentile world, potentially meaning that long-haul truckers will find themselves in the same boat (so to speak). Nothing gets moved; nothing gets sold; commerce grinds to a screeching halt. (Even today, all it would take for this to happen is making diesel fuel unavailable.) And nobody is happy about it, except for the Antichrist, who knows that this war (one he himself secretly precipitated) has brought Babylon to her knees while raising him to the position of “potential Messiah” in the eyes of the increasingly desperate populace of the world.
Well, I shouldn’t say “nobody” is happy about it. The inhabitants of heaven are also gratified to learn of Babylon’s demise: “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” (Revelation 18:9-20) Ironically, our reasons for rejoicing are parallel to the Antichrist’s. He sees Babylon as the last obstacle that must fall in order for him to seize control of planet Earth. Heaven, meanwhile, is taking a slightly longer view, knowing that Babylon’s fall means that the kingdom of the Antichrist (with Satan, the dragon that controls him) is the last and only enemy Christ must defeat for His Millennial reign to become reality. Babylon was like herding cats. The Antichrist is a monolith. No contest.
But alas, things are about to get exponentially worse for the hapless inhabitants of earth, who must, over the next three and a half years, make the ultimate choice—between good and evil, between life posing as death and death masquerading as life. Remember what the Risen Christ told the church as Philadelphia? “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10) His mechanism for achieving this will be the rapture. The “hour of trial” for those left behind will be the last seven years of the age, otherwise known as the Tribulation—and especially the last half: the post-Babylon reign of the Antichrist. On rapture day +1, there won’t be a single born-from-above believer on the face of the earth.
But wait: Philadelphia isn’t the last church on John’s mailing list. Laodicea starts out “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked,” in other words, lost, despite her glowing self-assessment to the contrary. But repentance is still possible, and multitudes will make the right choice (and pay a terrible price for having done so): “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:17-20) Being “refined like gold in the fire” is a euphemism for martyrdom—being slain for your faith. And the fifth Seal (Revelation 6:9-11) depicts them asking God to take vengeance on their murderers. Please be patient, He says. Alas, the slaughter is just getting started.
“Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb [that is, in heaven], clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen….” The identity of this multitude is now revealed: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation [that is, they are the martyrs of Laodicea, now immortals like the raptured saints before them], and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Better late than never. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 6:9-12, 14-17)
It’s worth noting that not all of the belatedly repentant Laodicean believers will be murdered by the Antichrist (ostensibly for refusing to take the mark of the beast). Some—multitudes, in fact—will evade the horrors of war, the famine and disease endemic of the times, and the headman’s axe. They, as mortal believers, will be counted among the blessed “sheep,” as described in Yahshua’s “Sheep and Goats” parable of Matthew 25:31-46. They will go on (with redeemed Israel) to repopulate the earth during the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
But I digress. We still weren’t through exploring what Babylon’s demise will entail. It was summarized in the seventh Bowl Judgment: “And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.” (Revelation 16:19) The specifics, again, are enumerated in Revelation 18: “Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore....’” It remains to be seen if this is a reference to the second Trumpet Judgment (in which a volcano was “thrown into the sea,” which under the right circumstances would cause a devastating tsunami), or is simply a simile, with the emphasis on the violence of Babylon’s fall. Either way, it’s going be devastating for Babylon, and hard on the people who have gotten used to living under her evil system.
“The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore.” That is, the entertainment industry will disappear. Being “non-essential,” it will apparently be the first thing to go. I would guess that professional sports would be included. “No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore.” The manufacturing sector will cease to function. If you can’t make it yourself from whatever you’ve got on hand, you’ll have to do without. “And the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore.” Agribusiness—commercial food production—will go away. Little will grow, and what little there is cannot easily be harvested and made available for sale at your local supermarket. “The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore.” The energy industry will become dysfunctional. It’s not that fuel, in its raw state, goes extinct. The coal and oil and uranium are still there in the ground. And the sun still shines, though its light is blocked by millions of tons of smoke and debris in the atmosphere—a phenomenon they used to call “nuclear winter.” “And the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore….” For any number of reasons, the normal rhythms of life will stop working. Sex won’t go out of style, but marriage, commitment, and raising children will. No one will be able to envision life beyond next week, much less fifty years down the road.
John concludes: “For your [Babylon’s] merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived….” The word translated “sorcery” here is the Greek pharmakeia, from which we get our concept of drugs. In John’s day, drugs were used in the making of occult spells or enchantments. In other words, there were “religious” overtones. (For a direct contemporary comparison, think of the way peyote is used among some North American indigenous peoples.) Making the mental leap to today’s mind-altering drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines is easy enough, and they’re all part of Babylon’s playbook. But think bigger.
Yes, there are pharmaceuticals available today that meet genuine health need (like the hypertension meds I’ve been on since the draft board discovered my chronic high blood pressure when I was a teenager. Looking on the bright side, at least I didn’t die for no discernable reason in some rice paddy half a world away, like so many of my contemporaries did). But today, Big Pharma grows rich pushing drugs that, while legal, maybe we would have been better off without: drugs to help you focus for the big test (or maybe treat your depression after failing it); drugs to prevent pregnancy (or to end a pregnancy); drugs to help you overcome the diseases you picked up by doing things God warned you not to; drugs to prevent theoretical cancers that affect a fraction of one percent of the population—and don’t even get me started on dangerous, unwarranted vaccines. The drugs themselves are bad enough, but God points out that the greed of their “merchants” is the real root of the problem.
“And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” (Revelation 18:21-24) That’s a lot of guilt to be laid at the feet of one octopus-like entity. John is telling us that the whore of Babylon is, at some level, responsible for the deaths of everyone who was slain “before their time,” especially those who honored Yahweh and His Messiah. On the “macro” level, we’re talking about the victims of warfare (whether on the battlefield or not); people who were the targets of crime; and victims of shady business practices. (Included here would be a broad range of examples: big pharma, whether legal or not; agribusiness abuses like genetic modification of food; financial manipulation for profit from the central bank level on down—the list could go on practically forever.) Also included would be victims of religious persecution, of both government overreach and the paranoia it precipitates, and lies taught to eager young minds in the name of “political correctness.” All of this, and much more, is defined as “Babylon,” and her demise is not only prophesied, we are told that her death won’t be any more “natural” than that of her victims.
Let us not forget that “the blood of the slain” implies two levels of evil. We’re used to thinking about our physical, mortal lives, of course. But the damage can also be done on the spiritual level—preventing someone from enjoying a personal relationship with his or her Creator: causing death on an eternal scale. When God said, “You shall not murder,” (Exodus 20:13) He wasn’t talking only about the body, but the soul and spirit as well. And remember that under God’s law, you don’t get bonus points for being incompetent: the mere attempt to separate people from their Creator is just as damning as “successful” spiritual murder.
The bottom line bears repeating: “Flee from Babylon! Save yourselves! Don’t get trapped in her punishment! It is Yahweh’s time for vengeance. He will repay her in full. Babylon has been a gold cup in Yahweh’s hands, a cup that made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank Babylon’s wine, and it drove them all mad. But suddenly Babylon, too, has fallen. Weep for her. Give her medicine. Perhaps she can yet be healed. We would have helped her if we could, but nothing can save her now. Let her go; abandon her. Return now to your own land, for her punishment reaches to the heavens. It is so great it cannot be measured.” (Jeremiah 51:6-9 NLT) Interesting. God’s prophet points out that somebody had to fulfill the societal functions Babylon has usurped for herself through the ages. She didn’t have to grow into the Satanic monolith she eventually became.
Religion? God provided priests and Levites, whose job was to keep His pure word before our eyes at all times. That is, we were not to invent “god” in our own image and then imagine what He might want from us. Commerce and finance? He simply told us to “keep honest weights and scales.” That is, do what needs to be done, not merely for profit, but in a spirit of love and service for your brother, trusting God to provide the increase. Government and defense? His idea of government is minimalist: Yahweh’s law is to be heeded by everyone, taught by those who have proven themselves mature and godly. Wise mentors are to be valued and honored, but humans are not to rule over other humans. Nothing is to be done out of greed or pride. Everything is to be done out of love and respect.
So God’s advice is that, to whatever extent is possible, do not participate in Babylon’s evil. Her time is nearly over. Her demise won’t take place until after the rapture of the church (to be replaced in the short term with something even worse—the rule of Satan’s Antichrist), but that doesn’t mean we believers should in the meantime compromise with or tolerate her evil. That being said, her reach and influence are so pervasive today, it’s hard to even perceive her presence. As I wrote somewhere, “It’s hard to see the blindfold that covers your own eyes.”
Babylon’s Surrogates and Subsets
As I mentioned above, part of Babylon’s profile (beside the religious angle, where her foul pagan legacy showed up in scores of different guises all over the ancient world) is commerce and finance, resulting in greed, leading in turn to pride. Revelation 17 and 18, as we saw, made that painfully clear. A third scriptural profile of Babylon is human government, with its inevitable partner, military force. So considering the sweeping nature of symbolic Babylon’s pervasive influence, even down to the present day, it occurred to me that our study of “Where Are You” might best be approached by collectively considering the scriptural profiles of some nations according to where they fit in their “Babylonian” profile (rather than independently).
It would appear that (although they’re never specifically characterized as subsets of Babylon in scripture), the Bible has made this very easy to do—as if we were meant to notice how these concepts relate to one another. As regards intrigue, political blackmail, and military conquest, Assyria (whose heyday preceded Babylon’s) comes readily to mind.
ASSYRIA: MILITANT EVIL
Assyria would appear to be symbolic of the rod of God’s wrath in the hands of evil men—the tool Yahweh invariably uses to chastise the rebels of this world. Isaiah reported the contrast between Egypt and Assyria, as they relate to Israel: “And it shall come to pass in that day that Yahweh will whistle for the fly that is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.” (Isaiah 7:18) They’re both “insects” in God’s eyes, but Egypt is where the flies are—on the dead and the dung. Assyria, meanwhile, bears the stinger. It served as a tool in God’s hand to chastise the wicked: “Yahweh will shave with a hired razor, with those from beyond the [Euphrates] River, with the king of Assyria.” (Isaiah 7:20)
During their relatively short reign of terror, the Assyrians were known for the cruelty they showed to showed to their captives (especially those who tried to defend themselves, instead of just giving up), and for displacing entire populations in an effort to break their emotional attachments to their homelands. They overran the thoroughly apostate Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, dispersing the ten tribes throughout their territory. They intended to take Judah as well (in 701 BC), but God intervened, as we shall see. Assyria was finally defeated (along with the Egyptian forces under Pharaoh Necho) by the Babylonians at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC.
My purpose here is not merely to track down dry historical facts, but to analyze the character of these nations, so we can avoid becoming like them, incurring God’s wrath in the process. (I realize it’s awfully late in the game to be thinking in these nationalistic terms, but there are still “Assyrian-like” character traits that we as individuals need to be aware of—and avoid.) As if to make my point for me, Zechariah—who lived almost a century and a half after Assyria had passed into history—wrote: “I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal. I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease. For I was a little angry, And they helped—but with evil intent.” (Zechariah 1:14-15) Assyria wasn’t specifically singled out for condemnation here, but their national character certainly seems to fit the profile: they were far more enthusiastic than they needed to be in chastising Israel. But in the end, any nation who fails to support Israel (whether in the Land or out) can expect to be cursed; see Genesis 12:3.
Undoubtedly the most inspiring Biblical story concerning Assyria is that of Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem, in about 701 BC. (It is also the most familiar, since it’s recorded in three places: II Kings 18-19, Isaiah 36-37, and the “short version” in II Chronicles 32.) Current and former Assyrian kings had already taken Israel’s Northern Kingdom, and 46 fortified cities in Judah as well. Judah’s godly king Hezekiah was already paying tribute to Sennacherib, but the Assyrian king’s ambition was insatiable: he would settle for nothing less than total surrender. So he sent his Rabshakeh (his chief negotiator/hoodlum) to try to convince Jerusalem to give up without a fight.
There is no doubt that Judah was in a weakened state. The Rabshakeh even taunted Hezekiah with the offer of two thousand horses—“if you are able on your part to put riders on them!” Hezekiah knew that he could not. The Rabshakeh’s fatal mistake was to assume that Judah’s God, Yahweh, was just as helpless as the false gods of the surrounding nations—nations that had already fallen to the Assyrians. No, it was even worse than that: he claimed that it was Yahweh Himself who had sent him: “Have I now come up without Yahweh against this land to destroy it? Yahweh said to me, ‘Go up against this land, and destroy it.’” (Isaiah 36:10) That one would have shaken my confidence, knowing that Judah had, over the years, flipped back and forth between honoring Yahweh and falling into idolatry.
Hezekiah’s response was perfect: he tore his clothes in mourning, put on sackcloth, and prayed to Yahweh for deliverance. He also consulted with God’s prophet, Isaiah, who informed Hezekiah, “Therefore thus says Yahweh concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor build a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return; and he shall not come into this city,’ Says Yahweh. ‘For I will defend this city, to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’” (Isaiah 37:33-35) Jerusalem is the only city in the world that Yahweh ever offered to defend—if only its inhabitants would repent and petition Him.
In contrast to what Sennacherib and his Rabshakeh had said, Isaiah’s statement wasn’t just “trash talk.” “Then the Angel of Yahweh went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed [see Isaiah 37:7] and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh [Assyria’s capital city]. Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.” (Isaiah 37:36-38; cf. II Kings 19:35-37) Note a few salient facts: (1) King Sennacherib wasn’t killed with his 185,000 troops (though his Rabshakeh presumably was). Yahweh had a more provocative fate in mind for him. (2) He continued to worship his old gods, not comprehending that Yahweh’s “victory” demonstrated conclusively that He was the One True God. (Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar, about a century later, would honor the God of Israel on far less evidence.) (3) The two brothers who perpetrated the unsuccessful palace coup achieved nothing for themselves, but unwittingly satisfied Yahweh’s demand for vengeance. (4) Esarhaddon went on to defeat Egypt, giving credence to the warnings of Yahweh’s prophets to Judah’s kings against relying on Egyptian help instead of His own. (For example, see Isaiah 30:1-3.)
Historically, it is unclear whether the death of Sennacherib’s 185,000, the final demise of Assyria a century later, or something else is in view here, but it is clear that Yahweh is displeased with them: “Yahweh will make his majestic voice heard. He will display the strength of his mighty arm. It will descend with devouring flames, with cloudbursts, thunderstorms, and huge hailstones. At Yahweh’s command, the Assyrians will be shattered. He will strike them down with his royal scepter. And as Yahweh strikes them with his rod of punishment, His people will celebrate with tambourines and harps. Lifting his mighty arm, he will fight the Assyrians. Topheth—the place of burning—has long been ready for the Assyrian king. The pyre is piled high with wood. The breath of Yahweh, like fire from a volcano, will set it ablaze.” (Isaiah 30:30-33 NLT)
Upon reflection, the language here is so “over the top,” I can’t help but wonder if Assyria’s symbolic persona—that of Militant Evil—is ultimately what’s on God’s mind. Wars have been fought by men and nations for no good reason throughout the history of humanity. (That is, though defense is a good reason to go to war, it implies there is always an evil aggressor in the picture.) Wars are not necessary, though they are inevitable, given the fallen state of mankind. Up through the “next-to-last” days (i.e., prior to the rapture), “wars and rumors of war” are decreed, and the Tribulation will see a massive escalation in the trend. The “horrendous” death tolls of World Wars I and II totaled about 100 million deaths (civilian and military) between them—maybe 5% of the world’s population at the time. But compare that to what’s coming: between the fourth Seal judgment and the sixth Trumpet, war (with its attendant woes) is predicted to kill one half of the earth’s population—some four billion souls.
The prophet Micah wrote in the time leading up to the Assyrian invasion of Israel’s Northern Kingdom, so here we’re apparently being shown a classic near-and-far prophetic perspective: “When the Assyrian comes into our land, and when he treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princely men.” Some commentators see a reference here to the Babylonians who would eventually take down Assyria. But there may be more to it. “They shall waste with the sword the land of Assyria, and the land of Nimrod at its entrances. Thus He shall deliver us from the Assyrian, when he comes into our land and when he treads within our borders.” (Micah 5:5-6) The Babylonians arrived a century too late to “deliver us (Israel) from the Assyrians.” But the war of Magog (Ezekiel 38-39) will witness Israeli valor as the Muslim hordes invade Israel (by my analysis, during the first half of the Tribulation, a year or so into it). Yahweh is not in the habit of proactively attacking Israel’s foes until they “come into our land,” i.e., crossing the border with genocide on their minds. So “the Assyrian” here might mean far more than modern Iraq (where Nineveh is), but rather the entire Magog coalition—hundreds of thousands of troops from a dozen Islamic nations. God will indeed “deliver [Israel] from the Assyrian,” that is, from militant evil personified.
But this time, they won’t fall only on the mountains of Israel. Ezekiel writes, “And I [Yahweh] will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am Yahweh.” (Ezekiel 39:6) I perceive here the escalation of the regional Magog War into WWIII—full blown nuclear war (“fire,” as in the First Trumpet Judgment of Revelation 8:7) against not only the “Assyrian” (Muslim) aggressors but also spilling out upon “the coastlands,” a.k.a. the gentile nations: especially Russia, Europe, and the United States. This holocaust will be generally mistaken for “Armageddon,” leading the lost world to hail the charismatic Antichrist as their messiah, three and a half years before the Real Thing shows up. It’s all a brilliant satanic counterfeit of God’s revealed plan. The devil is evil, but nobody ever said he was stupid.
Thus the symbolic connotation of Assyria is beginning to gel. “Militant Evil” has plagued the earth since long before Assyria came to power, and it has been with us ever since. Although the Assyrians are long gone, their symbolic profile remains: man will continue in his cruelty toward man, because, as in the days of Noah, “the wickedness of man [is] great in the earth, and every intent of the thoughts of his heart [is] only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) This shouldn’t come as any great surprise, of course. Christ Himself warned us, “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37)
All of the prophets who wrote during Assyria’s heyday—Isaiah, Nahum, Micah, and Zephaniah—shared Yahweh’s blistering imprecations against her. For instance, Nahum writes, “I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle. It shall come to pass that all who look upon you will flee from you, and say, ‘Nineveh is laid waste! Who will bemoan her?’ Where shall I seek comforters for you?... Your shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria. Your nobles rest in the dust. Your people are scattered on the mountains, and no one gathers them. Your injury has no healing; your wound is severe. All who hear news of you will clap their hands over you, for upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually?” (Nahum 3:6-7, 18-19) It shouldn’t come as any great shock that nobody would “bemoan” Assyria’s fall. They were famous for their unnecessary cruelty, greed, and arrogance.
The interesting fact, however, is that by the time Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonians finished off Assyria (along with Egypt) at the Battle of Carchemish, they were already rotten to the core, corrupt and decadent from top to bottom (ironically, just as debauched as Babylon itself would be, just before they fell to the Medes and Persians—some seventy years later. See Daniel 5). It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen time after time throughout history: a nation grows strong, then belligerent (or merely paranoid), and then rotten and degenerate, ready to fall like overripe fruit into the basket of the next player to come along.
But remember Nebuchadnezzar’s statue dream? This pattern won’t continue indefinitely. When God declares that the proper time has come, He will put an end to the “Assyria Cycle.” Mankind will no longer abuse their neighbors until they are too depraved to stand any longer: rather, Yahweh (in the manifestation of the Messiah) will step in to show us how good it could have been, if only we had honored Him in the first place.
So we read the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Return to Him against whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted.” That is, Yahweh and His Christ. “For in that day every man shall throw away his idols of silver and his idols of gold—sin, which your own hands have made for yourselves.” Everything mankind has turned into an object of worship, resulting in pride, greed, and hatred, will in the end be recognized to be worthless. “Then Assyria [read: the home of Militant Evil—today, it would be Russia, China, dar al-Islam (especially Iran), Europe, and yes, the United States] shall fall by a sword not of man, and a sword not of mankind shall devour him.” The “sword not of mankind” is that of Yahshua the Messiah. There is no defense against it, nor should we want there to be, for He alone has the right to rule. “But he [“Assyria,” and all that it signifies—the example of what not to do] shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall become forced labor. He shall cross over to his stronghold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the banner,’ says Yahweh, whose fire is in Zion and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 31:6-9)
That “banner” is the Hebrew word nes—a pole, signal, standard, banner, or sign. It reminds us of the pole in Numbers 21 upon which Moses mounted a bronze serpent. Anyone who had been bitten by a snake (a plague sent by God upon Israel because of their ungratefulness and rebellion) would be cured if they looked at the nes in faith. In John 3:14, Christ told Nicodemus (in so many words) that the snake-sign Moses had lifted up was a picture of the cross upon which He would take our sins upon Himself. Or more to the point, that “banner” was Christ Himself: “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner [nes] to the people.” (Isaiah 11:10)
But wait a minute: “Yahweh, whose fire is in Zion…”? This is one of a thousand places in the Tanakh where this (seemingly impossible) prophecy is repeated, in one form or another. In order to be fulfilled, (1) Israel must be back in the land (a miracle in progress as we speak); (2) Yahshua the Messiah must return to the earth in power, after an absence of two thousand years; (3) He must judge and conquer “Militant Evil” in this world: symbolically, Assyria—ultimately, the Antichrist’s kingdom; and (4) Israel—as a nation—must repent, recognize their Messiah for who He is, and become restored as Yahweh’s covenant people. This will be the result of the sixth Holy Appointment of Yahweh—the Day of Atonement. Yahweh’s “fire” and “furnace” in Jerusalem will be the ultimate outcome of the “battle” of Armageddon, in which Yahshua the Messiah will single-handedly destroy the Antichrist’s vast armies in the Land of Promise. And the Kingdom Age will commence a mere five days after the Day of Atonement—on the definitive Feast of Tabernacles.
This seventh and final holy convocation, also known as Sukkot, promises to be full of surprises. It’s an eight-day feast—the first seven apparently representing the totality of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, and the eighth indicating its extension into the eternal state, as God introduces to us the New Heavens and New Earth. Multitudes of mortals will be born during the Kingdom Age, but because King Yahshua is ruling from Zion, the character of some of these symbolic nation-states with which Israel has dealt in the past will change radically.
We began our study of Assyria, you’ll recall, with a comparison with Egypt: they’re both insects in God’s sight, but Egypt was pictured as a nasty, annoying fly, while Assyria was seen as a stinging bee (Isaiah 7:18). And as we have seen, Egypt is consistently portrayed as the place of “bondage in the earth,” while Assyria is used as a symbol for “militant evil.” But will these malevolent national characterizations still stand during Christ’s Kingdom Age? Apparently not: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom Yahweh of hosts shall bless, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.’” (Isaiah 19:23-25)
I’ll admit it: I was astounded when I first read this—pleasantly surprised, but amazed nevertheless. How could the nations symbolizing bondage and aggression become “a blessing?” But upon reflection, it makes perfect sense. A “nation” isn’t just a place, a plot of ground. It’s the people who live there. After the Tribulation has run its course—after Yahshua has righted all the wrongs and assumed the throne of Planet Earth—the only mortals remaining on the planet will be the redeemed: either believing Israel or belatedly saved gentiles (the “church of repentant Laodicea”). Our Messiah is in the business of transforming lives, of restoring—one person at a time—what we lost in the Garden of Eden: our innocence. “All have sinned.” That includes you and me. But if we have come to trust and rely upon the sacrifice of Christ to atone for our many sins, we can number ourselves among the redeemed—those bought back from destruction.
And what about Assyria and Egypt? They, like the rest of humanity, were once part of the problem. But during the Millennium, thanks to the shed blood of Yahshua, they will be a manifestation of the solution: they will be a blessing to their neighbors—especially to Israel. Assyria? There will be no more wars. People will forget how to hate each other, and the paranoia and greed that used to precipitate such things will be swallowed up in the overwhelming love of Christ. And Egypt? The only “chains” that constrain us will be bonds of love for our fellow man, the desire to serve mankind in the wisdom of God.
I can hardly wait.
As I said, the Bible has made it very easy to make symbolic comparisons between the symbolic “Harlot of Babylon” and other historic societies—as if we were meant to notice how these concepts relate to one another. Time and again, we were instructed to “Flee from Babylon.” So in the interests of discerning “where we are,” we should consider all of Babylon’s profiles—so we can avoid them. In the case of commerce and finance, we find Tyre (especially Tyre), Sidon, Tarshish, Cyprus, Philistia and others mentioned in the same contexts quite often by the prophets of Yahweh. What they all have in common is commerce on the sea: the endeavors of man—one of Babylon’s strongholds.
TYRE: THE HOME OF PRIDE
Let us begin by consulting Isaiah 23. “The burden against Tyre: Wail, you ships of Tarshish! For it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no harbor. From the land of Cyprus it is revealed to them. Be still, you inhabitants of the coastland, you merchants of Sidon, whom those who cross the sea have filled. And on great waters the grain of Shihor, the harvest of the [Nile] River, is her revenue, and she is a marketplace for the nations. Be ashamed, O Sidon, for the sea has spoken: the strength of the sea, saying, ‘I do not labor, nor bring forth children, neither do I rear young men, nor bring up virgins.’ [In other words, ‘We don’t actually produce much of anything ourselves (Tyrian purple dye being one notable exception—good for nothing except impressing poor people). We just make a killing transporting and selling what others have made, grown, or harvested out of the earth.’] When the report reaches Egypt, they also will be in agony at the report of Tyre….” As we read the prophecies concerning Tyre (arguably the most successful of the Phoenician trading cities), we get a serious case of déjà vu, reminding us of Revelation 18’s depiction of commercial Babylon’s demise (which, in the ultimate sense, is yet future as I write these words). Time and again, we see Tyre’s trading partners and facilitators shocked and dismayed over her sudden and catastrophic demise—just like John’s description of Babylon’s mourners.
What accounts for the “shock” factor? After all, over Tyre’s long history (having been founded as far back as 2700 BC), covetous nations had repeatedly attacked and subjugated her. Tyre reached “superpower” status under the reign of King Hiram I, a contemporary and ally of Israel’s King David (circa 969 BC). Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar II later laid siege to the city for almost thirteen years (585-573 BC), but when they finally breached the city’s defenses, they discovered that Tyre had been physically relocated, piece by piece, to an island fortress a half-mile offshore: the old mainland city was left practically deserted. The new island city, complete with a walled shoreline and two harbors, was considered invincible for hundreds of years. But in 332 BC, Alexander the Great, as part of his strategic campaign against Persia, determined to take the seemingly impregnable Tyre. He did so by having the entire old city scraped down to bedrock, and the rubble used to build a causeway between the mainland and the island (fulfilling a series of “impossibly” detailed prophecies in Ezekiel 26, which we’ll consider shortly). The operation took every ounce of military might Alexander could muster, including a massive naval blockade. It took seven months to complete, after which Alexander’s forces killed 8,000 Tyrian defenders, with another 30,000 captured and sold into slavery. It was total, shocking defeat.
So Isaiah concludes: “Cross over to Tarshish. Wail, you inhabitants of the coastland! Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is from ancient days, whose feet carried her far off to dwell? Who has taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traders are the honorable of the earth? Yahweh of hosts has purposed it, to bring to dishonor the pride of all glory, to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth.” Exactly like future Babylon. “Overflow through your land like the River, O daughter of Tarshish. There is no more strength. He stretched out His hand over the sea, He shook the kingdoms. Yahweh has given a commandment against Canaan to destroy its strongholds.” Canaan’s curse is still in effect: see Genesis 9:24-27. “And He said, ‘You will rejoice no more, O you oppressed virgin daughter of Sidon. Arise, cross over to Cyprus: there also you will have no rest.” (Isaiah 23:1-12) As with John’s depiction of the sudden overthrow of Babylon in Revelation 18, the allies and dependents of Tyre are not left unscathed. They have paid the price for putting their trust in man (and mammon) instead of the God who created them.
Then consider the precision of Ezekiel’s prophecy, written some two and a half centuries before Alexander destroyed Tyre: “Thus says the Lord Yahweh: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for spreading nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ says the Lord Yahweh; ‘it shall become plunder for the nations….” Remember: the old deserted mainland city was scraped down to bedrock by Alexander’s troops to make their causeway—making this one of the more unlikely-to-be-fulfilled prophecies in scripture. “They will plunder your riches and pillage your merchandise; they will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; they will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water. I will put an end to the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps shall be heard no more. I will make you like the top of a rock; you shall be a place for spreading nets, and you shall never be rebuilt, for I Yahweh have spoken,’ says the Lord Yahweh.” (Ezekiel 26:3-5, 12-14) For a more detailed analysis of this, see Evidence that Demands a Verdict, chapter 11, by Josh McDowell.
But Ezekiel wasn’t done. As in Isaiah 23 above, note the incredible parallels between the Old Testament prophets’ imprecations against Tyre and John’s Revelation 17-18 tirade against commercial-financial Babylon: “Thus says the Lord Yahweh to Tyre: ‘Will the coastlands not shake at the sound of your fall, when the wounded cry, when slaughter is made in the midst of you? Then all the princes of the sea will come down from their thrones, lay aside their robes, and take off their embroidered garments; they will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, tremble every moment, and be astonished at you. And they will take up a lamentation for you, and say to you: “How you have perished, O one inhabited by seafaring men, O renowned city, who was strong at sea, she and her inhabitants, who caused their terror to be on all her inhabitants! Now the coastlands tremble on the day of your fall. Yes, the coastlands by the sea are troubled at your departure.”’” (Ezekiel 26:15-18) The messages are identical. God is using Tyre as a prophecy, a “type,” of what will happen to the world’s economic system (a.k.a. the Whore of Babylon) during the Tribulation. Only the names have changed—leading us to the conclusion that we need to be paying attention to the concepts here, and not just the historical details. The bottom line is clear: greed-driven pride will not escape unscathed. Yahweh is Judge.
Ezekiel’s rant continues: “The word of Yahweh came again to me, saying, now, son of man, take up a lamentation for Tyre, and say to Tyre, you who are situated at the entrance of the sea, merchant of the peoples on many coastlands, thus says the Lord Yahweh: O Tyre, you have said, ‘I am perfect in beauty.’ Your borders are in the midst of the seas. Your builders have perfected your beauty.” (Ezekiel 27:1-4) Tyre’s connection with other nations and states are now listed (verses 5-24), along with the wares they dealt in or the services they rendered to Tyre. Lebanon, Bashan, Ashurites, Cyprus, Egypt, Sidon, Gebal, Persia, Lydia, Libya, Arvad, Gammad, Tarshish, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, Togarmah, Dedan, Syria, Judah, Damascus, Dan, Arabia, Kedar, Sheba, Raamah, Haran, Canneh, Eden, Assyria, Chilmad, are all listed as being among Tyre’s “merchants.” Collectively, these places comprise pretty much the entire known world of Ezekiel’s day.
And they are all said to mourn at Tyre’s fall. “They will make their voice heard because of you. They will cry bitterly and cast dust on their heads. They will roll about in ashes. They will shave themselves completely bald because of you, gird themselves with sackcloth, and weep for you with bitterness of heart and bitter wailing. In their wailing for you they will take up a lamentation, and lament for you: ‘What city is like Tyre, destroyed in the midst of the sea? When your wares went out by sea, you satisfied many people. You enriched the kings of the earth with your many luxury goods and your merchandise. But you are broken by the seas in the depths of the waters. Your merchandise and the entire company will fall in your midst. All the inhabitants of the isles will be astonished at you. Their kings will be greatly afraid, and their countenance will be troubled. The merchants among the peoples will hiss at you. You will become a horror, and be no more forever.” (Ezekiel 27:30-36) In the backs of everyone’s minds, the thought occurs: if this can happen to Tyre, none of us is immune to God’s wrath. It’s not that Tyre ceased to be an inhabited (or habitable) city. People live there to this very day. But after Alexander’s conquest, it was never “Tyre” again—that is, it never regained its exalted status as the world’s premier trading hub.
Nor will the “Babylon” (or the Illuminati—or whatever you want to call it) of Revelation 18 ever make a comeback. During the millennial kingdom age, its legitimate functions (yes, they do exist) will be reinvented and replaced by Yahweh’s Messiah, this time in perfect wisdom, love, and mercy. I’ve been living under Babylon’s tyranny so long, I can’t even imagine what that will look like. But under Christ, our expressions of faith will finally be untainted by man’s interference and error. The government will finally rest on the shoulders of the Son of God: “of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6-7). And commerce and finance in the world will at last conducted with an agenda of love and service toward our fellow man, not profit for pride’s sake: “Honest weights and scales are Yahweh’s. All the weights in the bag are His work.” (Proverbs 16:11)
So, to recap my train of thought so far: historical Tyre has been recruited as a metaphor for “Babylon” (in the Revelation 17-18 sense—the octopus-like entity who has in these Last Days seized control over virtually all of the world’s man-made religions, governments, and financial structure). Tyre’s shocking fall serves as a prophetic preview for the coming sudden demise of the harlot of Babylon—the one from whom we have been instructed multiple times to flee. The nations, states, and peoples who have sold their souls to Tyre/Babylon are depicted as being horrified at her fall, perceiving that whatever killed the gander could just as easily kill the goose.
Tyre wasn’t singled out for God’s wrath because of her skill in trading, her success, or even her vast wealth. The bone of contention can be boiled down to one word: pride. “The word of Yahweh came to me again, saying, ‘Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Because your heart is lifted up, and you say, “I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the midst of the seas,” yet you are a man, and not a god, though you set your heart as the heart of a god (Behold, you are wiser than Daniel! There is no secret that can be hidden from you! With your wisdom and your understanding you have gained riches for yourself, and gathered gold and silver into your treasuries. By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches, and your heart is lifted up because of your riches)….’” The king of Tyre (unnamed in scripture) is singled out as the focus of the problem. He thinks he’s a “god” because he has grown so rich, and so untouchable (in his own mind), by virtue of his intelligence and insight. His real identity is about to be revealed, but it may come as a surprise.
“Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: ‘Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god, behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you, the most terrible of the nations.” Like Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, or Greece’s Alexander, perhaps? “And they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom, and defile your splendor. They shall throw you down into the Pit, and you shall die the death of the slain in the midst of the seas. Will you still say before him who slays you, ‘I am a god’? But you shall be a man, and not a god, in the hand of him who slays you. You shall die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of aliens. For I have spoken,” says the Lord Yahweh.” (Ezekiel 28:1-10) Pagan “gods” were considered immortal—people couldn’t kill them (as much as they needed killing). But because of the plausible candidates for historical fulfillment—separated by hundreds of years—the “king of Tyre” here should, I’m thinking, be thought of as a concept, a collective profile, not a single identifiable human being, no matter how proud he became.
As Ezekiel continues, we finally discover who God is really talking about: “Moreover the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God.’” Eden? Yes. He’s referring to Satan, the fork-tongued serpent. “‘Every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers. I established you. You were on the holy mountain of God. You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you….’” Satan was no “ordinary” angel. He was (apparently) the most splendiferous, the most gifted and promising spirit messenger Yahweh ever created. Cherubs (or cherubim) were an order of angels whose magnificence is attested in Yahweh’s use of their images as decorative elements in the tabernacle, even though He had made it quite clear that the Israelites were not to make images of anything—even angelic beings—as objects of worship. (See Exodus 20:4-5, the Second Commandment.)
“By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned.” Here is where the profiles of the king of Tyre and Satan himself intersect: trade, traffic, merchandise—the exchange of one thing for another. In Eden, it was swapping the truth for a lie, of convincing Eve to give up God’s perfect world because it wasn’t everything. Or as the KJV phrases the words of Paul, “Through covetousness shall they [the satanically inspired false teachers] with feigned words make merchandise of you.” “Therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground. I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading. Therefore I brought fire from your midst. It devoured you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you. You have become a horror, and shall be no more forever.” (Ezekiel 28:11-19) It’s not that Satan and his demons will cease to exist; it’s just that where God has incarcerated them, they will no longer be able to affect our perceptions or cloud our thoughts. They will no longer be able to trade God’s unadorned truth for plausible, attractive counterfeits.
The “king of Tyre” you say? In Isaiah 14, Yahweh said virtually the same thing about the king of Babylon. “It shall come to pass in the day Yahweh gives you [Israel] rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve, that you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say: ‘How the oppressor has ceased, the golden city ceased! Yahweh has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers. He who struck the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he who ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted and no one hinders….’” We’re being given a glimpse at the conclusion of the matter here: “the oppressor has ceased, and the staff of the wicked is broken?” Don’t look now, but this hasn’t happened yet in our world. But as things get worse and worse, we can be encouraged because Christ told us that when we see these signs converging, the end of evil is not far off, but is at the very doors. (See Matthew 24:32-33.)
When the Great Tribulation has finally run its course, “The whole earth is at rest and quiet. They break forth into singing. Indeed the cypress trees rejoice over you, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were cut down, no woodsman has come up against us.’ Sheol from beneath is excited about you, to meet you at your coming. It stirs up the dead for you, all the chief ones of the earth. It has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. They all shall speak and say to you: ‘Have you also become as weak as we? Have you become like us? Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your stringed instruments. The maggot is spread under you, and worms cover you….’” Something tells us that Yahweh has bigger fish to fry than any one human ruler. He is ultimately speaking of Satan himself:
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” “Lucifer” is not the devil’s name, but rather a description. The Hebrew word here is helel, meaning “day-star,” or “shining one.” Helel in turn is derived from halal, a verb meaning to shine, hence “to praise,” as in the familiar exclamation Hallelujah, meaning “Praise Yahweh,” or more literally, “radiate Yahweh’s light.” God created this angelic being with great potential, but he’s not looking so shiny anymore: “How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?’” (Isaiah 14:3-17) As I said, don’t think of Satan as “the king of hell.” When Yahweh finally incarcerates him, he will merely be one of the inmates, notable only for the height from which he has fallen, and the depth of his depravity.
SIDON: THE SYCOPHANT
Tyre and Sidon are mentioned together quite frequently in scripture, for they were only about twenty miles apart (Sidon being farther north) on the Mediterranean coast. As we have seen, Tyre gets taken to task frequently by God’s prophets, while Sidon is usually seen in a supporting role in Tyre’s dramas. But there is one short passage (granted, immediately following a rant about Tyre) in which Sidon is specifically singled out for condemnation:
Ezekiel writes, “Then the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, son of man, set your face toward Sidon, and prophesy against her, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I am against you, O Sidon. I will be glorified in your midst, and they shall know that I am Yahweh, when I execute judgments in her and am hallowed in her. For I will send pestilence upon her, and blood in her streets. The wounded shall be judged in her midst by the sword against her on every side. Then they shall know that I am Yahweh. And there shall no longer be a pricking brier or a painful thorn for the house of Israel from among all who are around them, who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord Yahweh.” (Ezekiel 28:20-24) What’s remarkable here is the fact that in four short verses, we are told three times that “they shall know that I am Yahweh.” That in itself is a very good thing. It implies the opportunity for repentance.
When? I think the key to this is what comes immediately afterward. Without taking a breath, Ezekiel continues, “When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. And they will dwell safely there, build houses, and plant vineyards; yes, they will dwell securely, when I execute judgments on all those around them who despise them.” There’s the key. “Then they shall know that I am Yahweh their God.” (Ezekiel 28:25-26) Sidon is in modern-day Lebanon—until recently (i.e., until the rise of militant “Palestinian Islam”) a largely Christian nation. (And according to Numbers 34, most of Lebanon is ultimately within Israel’s promised borders.) But since the 1970s, Lebanon has been overrun by Islamist groups whose singular goal is the extermination of Israel. So when will Yahweh “execute judgments on all those around them who despise them?” This will all come to a head during the war of Magog (see Ezekiel 38-39), when everyone left alive—Jews and gentiles—will be confronted with the undeniable fact that Yahweh is real, and He is prepared to defend Israel. Sidon (and the rest of Lebanon) will no longer be a launching pad for Islamic terror, but “then they shall know that I am the Lord Yahweh.” Choose your heroes carefully.
PHILISTIA: THE BULLY
Tyre and nearby Sidon were often viewed as a unit by God’s prophets, along with other city-states in the Levant. Jeremiah, for instance, says: “Because of the day that comes to plunder all the Philistines, to cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper who remains. For Yahweh shall plunder the Philistines, the remnant of the country of Caphtor [i.e., Crete]. Baldness has come upon Gaza; Ashkelon is cut off with the remnant of their valley. How long will you cut yourself? O you sword of Yahweh, how long until you are quiet? Put yourself up into your scabbard, rest and be still! How can you be quiet, seeing Yahweh has given it a charge against Ashkelon and against the seashore? There He has appointed it.” (Jeremiah 47:4-7) The timeline is a little hard to follow here, because Philistia was conquered by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar hundreds of years before Tyre was taken by Alexander (though Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for over a decade, as we saw above). But perhaps the prophet was seeing something completely different, something that we can recognize only now, as we approach the end of the age.
Could he be referring (ultimately) to the present day “Philistines,” that is, the Palestinians, who have so troubled Israel since their 1948 resurrection? I realize, of course, that there is no genetic connection between the two groups. But think conceptually. When the Roman emperor Hadrian renamed Judea “Palestina” (Palestine) in 135AD in an attempt to sever the rebellious Jews’ emotional attachment to the Land, he couldn’t have known that the Arab Muslims living there nineteen hundred years later would function exactly as the Philistines had to Israel in the age of the Judges and early monarchy—as a thorn in their collective sides. The whole idea is as poetic as it is (apparently) prophetic.
You’re probably thinking, “As theories go, that’s awfully thin.” And you’d be right, were it not for a parallel passage from the prophet Joel. “Indeed, what have you to do with Me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the coasts of Philistia? Will you retaliate against Me? But if you retaliate against Me, swiftly and speedily I will return your retaliation upon your own head….” What first caught my attention was the fact that the Islamic scriptures are forever making threats about Muhammad (or Allah) “retaliating” against their enemies for some infraction, real or imagined—“Surely the hypocrites strive to deceive Allah. He shall retaliate by deceiving them.” (Qur’an 4:142) One example: the Jews of Yathrib (Medina) refused to receive Muhammad as their messiah. Apparently, it was an intolerable affront, so he retaliated by killing or enslaving all of them—three entire tribes—and using the booty he stole from them to buy more arms, which his “insurgents” used to overrun the entire Arabian Peninsula.
“…Because you have taken My silver and My gold, and have carried into your temples My prized possessions. Also the people of Judah and the people of Jerusalem you have sold to the Greeks, that you may remove them far from their borders. Behold, I will raise them out of the place to which you have sold them, and will return your retaliation upon your own head. I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans [from Sheba, i.e., Arabs], to a people far off. For Yahweh has spoken.” (Joel 3:4-8) As I explained in The End of the Beginning, “Those nations who robbed Israel and sold her people into slavery ranged from North Africa to Iran, and all of them have in turn been ‘sold’ to Islam, whose origins are—you guessed it—in the land of the Sabeans—today’s Saudi Arabia. But what was that enigmatic bit about Jewish middlemen? The Jews of Yathrib were the unwitting (and unwilling) stepping stone Muhammad needed to launch Islam into a going concern. First they sold him scripture-based lies from the Talmud and other apocryphal sources, many of which found their way into the Hadith and Qur’an. Then they served as the initial host for the Islamic parasite to feed upon. And feed it did, gaining strength until it could successfully infect pagans and Christians alike. Within a hundred years, the entire Middle East had fallen. Now you know why.”
The demise of Philistia (whether literal or figurative) is also discussed by Isaiah: “This is the burden which came in the year that King Ahaz died: Do not rejoice, all you of Philistia, because the rod that struck you is broken.” This “rod” is Assyria. “The Philistines had invaded the low country, and the district known as the Negeb, or ‘south’ of Judah, in the reign of Ahaz. He had called in the help of Tiglath-pileser, the Assyrian king, to assist him…. Sargon (who succeeded Tiglath-pileser, B.C. 723) invaded Ashdod in B.C. 710.”—Ellicott. But then, Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar took Philistia in about 604 BC as he began his conquest of the Promised Land. The Philistines were never again to rise again as a regional power. “For out of the serpent’s roots will come forth a viper, and its offspring will be a fiery flying serpent.” Historically, these serpents are probably references to three Assyrian kings: Tiglath-pileser, Sargon, and Sennacherib. “The firstborn of the poor will feed, and the needy will lie down in safety. I will kill your roots with famine, and it will slay your remnant. Wail, O gate! Cry, O city! All you of Philistia are dissolved. For smoke will come from the north, and no one will be alone in his appointed times. What will they answer the messengers of the nation? That Yahweh has founded Zion, and the poor of His people shall take refuge in it.” (Isaiah 14:28-32) The bottom line: Philistia is toast, while Zion will endure.
Again, I also perceive a symbolic parallel between the troublesome Philistines of old and the “Palestinians” of our age. They will become a bargaining chip (if my analysis is correct) in the “covenant with many” (see Daniel 9:27) that will mark the beginning of the Tribulation. For the past few decades, a bad idea that refuses to die is the “Two-State Solution,” in which the Palestinians are to be given large chunks of Israeli land in return for hollow Muslim promises of “peace in our time.” The Antichrist will convince everyone to agree to some sort of deal—and the treaty will hold long enough for the Antichrist to achieve worldwide fame as the “man who achieved peace in the Middle East.”
Sounds great, right? No. The whole concept is one big satanic lie: “For out of the serpent’s roots will come forth a viper, and its offspring will be a fiery flying serpent.” The Muslims will perceive Israel as weak, so they’ll attack her, despite their solemn treaty obligation to respect Israel’s skinny new borders. Muhammad made it clear that treaties with infidels mean nothing—that the advance of Islam is everything. My guess is that this surprise attack will come a year or two into the treaty. The war’s scenario is described in Ezekiel 38-39: (1) The Magog federation, led by Iran and Turkey under the auspices of a charismatic warlord codenamed “Gog” (whom the Muslims will recognize as their own predicted “Mahdi”) will assault the newly toothless Israel. “For smoke will come from the north.” (2) Yahweh will miraculously defeat the Muslim hordes, using means no one else can plausibly claim to have employed—focused earthquakes, Muslim fratricide, sudden disease, Sodom-and-Gomorrah-style fire and brimstone, floods, and hailstorms. (See Ezekiel 38:19-22) (3) The Palestinian pawns are taken out: “All you of Philistia are dissolved.” And (4) the whole world will be reminded “that Yahweh has founded Zion, and the poor of His people shall take refuge in it.” Thus the course of the Tribulation will be revealed: it’s Satan vs. God—the devil’s followers vs. Yahweh’s elect. Everyone will be forced, in the end, to choose a side. And the long-dead “Philistines” will be right in the middle of it.
TARSHISH: THE FACILITATOR
What about Tarshish, a city mentioned frequently with others (like Tyre) in the context of judgment? It is seldom spoken of as a destination, located, as it was, on the far western edge of the Mediterranean Sea. But that distance was kind of the point when the prophet Jonah tried to go there: “Now the word of Yahweh came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.’” Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was the last place a man of God would want to go: a den of iniquity and idolatry. It would have been the rough equivalent of a young pastor being told by God to go and establish a congregation in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. Anywhere but there, Lord! “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh.” (Jonah 1:1-3) As we all know, Jonah never made it to Tarshish. But his reluctant “adventures” eventually precipitated a revival in Nineveh: their repentance granted their city another century of life—which, come to think of it, may have postponed judgment on Assyria’s future victims as well.
I get the feeling that most of the Biblical mentions of Tarshish aren’t really about the city at all, but about their attitudes and associations. For example: “For the day of Yahweh of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up—and it shall be brought low….Upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all the beautiful sloops.” (Isaiah 2:12, 16) I’m pretty sure Yahweh doesn’t have a problem with pretty boats. But pride is another matter: it thrives where money is plentiful, but love and mercy are in short supply. “Overflow through your land like the River, O daughter of Tarshish. There is no more strength…. Wail, you ships of Tarshish! For your strength is laid waste.” (Isaiah 23:10, 14) In other words, it isn’t what Tarshish is, but what it means.
Elsewhere, I explained: “Because it’s important, I’d like to give you an example, an obscure but telling glimpse at how a hyper-literal approach can cloud our understanding. In Ezekiel 38, the prophet is describing the build-up of a major end-times battle. He says, ‘Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to you, ‘Have you come to take plunder…?’
“Who are these people? We know where they were. Sheba and Dedan were on the west coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Tarshish was located near Gibraltar, in Southern Spain. (Remember Jonah’s little encounter with the big fish? He was headed for Tarshish, which was about as far west as you could go in his day.) So the Ezekiel passage obviously means that Saudi Arabia and Spain will be making diplomatic protestations, right? Not exactly. Factor in II Chronicles 20:35-37: ‘After this, Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted very wickedly. And he allied himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion Geber. But Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, Yahweh has destroyed your works.” Then the ships were wrecked, so that they were not able to go to Tarshish.’
“So what? Jehoshaphat doesn’t get to cruise the Med. Big deal. No, look closer. Ezion Geber was where Eliat is today, at the Southern tip of Israel, where it meets the Gulf of Aqaba. You can’t get to Spain, or anywhere in the Mediterranean, from there in a boat without circumnavigating the continent of Africa, and that’s something nobody even attempted for another 2,000 years.
“A mistake? No, a metaphor. Tarshish, a real, literal, place, had become a metaphor for ‘commerce,’ or ‘business.’ We use a similar term today. When we say ‘Wall Street,’ we don’t necessarily mean a road in Manhattan, though there is such a road, but rather a system of commerce, or even the greed that drives it. So Ezekiel seems to be saying that the world’s financial interests and those who control the world’s biggest oil reserves will get real nervous when Gog (the ‘you’ in the passage quoted above) and his allies make their move. That’s the nature of metaphor within a literalist interpretation.”—The End of the Beginning.
Having studied the symbolic attributes of “Babylon,” we know that the Great Harlot jealously controls most commerce and finance in the world today (along with religion, academia, government, and the apparatus of war). So is Yahweh implying that during the Millennial Kingdom, we’re all going to have to go back to the financial stone age, reverting to the barter system? Will there no longer be any commerce or trade as we know it, and no legal tender to facilitate our transactions? We aren’t told, but I rather doubt it. What I do know is that our Messiah-King knows how things need to work.
Even in these evil Last Days, most commerce at the local level isn’t overly tainted with greed and corruption: that typically happens farther up the food chain, where the Harlot’s Little Helpers manipulate the availability of food and fuel (among other things) in order to drive up profits for themselves, and/or push a political agenda that could only have been hatched in the mind of Satan himself. But under Christ’s rule, pride, greed, and other demonic motivators will be non-existent. That guy growing lettuce in California for salads meant to be eaten in Denver will be motivated by love for his fellow man, not by avarice, and he will run his business accordingly. Multiply that example by a million, in every endeavor known to man, and you’ll begin to see that commerce, in itself, isn’t the problem. The sinful proclivities of fallen man are the problem. (Well, not every endeavor known to man. War and weaponry will cease to be. Drugs of any sort will no longer be needed or desired. If there is still an entertainment industry, it will bear no resemblance to what we see today. You get the picture.)
What does all that have to do with Tarshish? Listen to Isaiah’s description of the repatriation of Israel, a process that is already underway, but is nowhere near complete: “Who are these who fly like a cloud, and like doves to their roosts? Surely the coastlands shall wait for Me; and the ships of Tarshish will come first, to bring your sons from afar, their silver and their gold with them, to the name of Yahweh your God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because He has glorified you.” (Isaiah 60:8-9) Half of the world’s Israelites (a.k.a. Jews) still live outside the Land of Promise, exerting influence on this world far in excess of what their numbers might suggest. (They comprise only about 0.2% of the world’s population). God loves them (in spite of their errors), and more to the point, He intends to keep His promises to them—including their spiritual restoration and regathering to the Land.
So notice who God intends to recruit to bring about Israel’s joyful repatriation: the gentiles (i.e., the “coastlands”), and especially Tarshish—whom we now recognize as being symbolic of the machinery of commerce in the world. It would appear that Tarshish, though often a tool in the hands of the whore of Babylon today, is not evil in itself. Its functions, from manufacturing to transportation to finance, will still have an important part to play in Christ’s Millennial kingdom. We are even told when this will happen. “Come, and let us return to Yahweh, for He has torn, but He will heal us. He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days [read: two thousand years, beginning with Israel’s rejection of their Messiah in 33AD] He will revive us. On the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.” (Hosea 6:1-2) That “third day,” in case you missed it, will be the Kingdom Age—Yahshua’s Millennial Sabbath. And Tarshish—the world’s system of commerce—will be an instrument in God’s hands for a change.
In the same way that we found Tyre, Sidon, Philistia, and Tarshish, etc. mentioned in the same contexts as representatives of Babylon-style commerce and finance, note that certain gentile nations are also revealed in scripture according to their Babylonian traits: human governments controlling each other (or trying to) through military conquest. This time, however, we see them not as contemporaneous groups, but as a succession of super-powers, one rising as another falls in historical cadence.
The prophetic framework for this succession of gentile world powers was revealed to Daniel, who as a young Israelite had been become a captive of the Babylonian empire, under the newly ascendant King Nebuchadnezzar II. In the second year of his reign (circa 604 BC), he had a disturbing dream, which he perceived bore divine portent, but whose meaning he could not decipher. Daniel (who honored Yahweh) had by this time been singled out for his wisdom and understanding, assessed to be “ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in [Nebuchadnezzar’s] realm.” (See Daniel 1:20.) So Yahweh (who had given the dream to the king) revealed it to Daniel as well, and informed him as to its meaning—which, as it turned out, would be of fundamental importance to our understand of God’s plan for mankind.
So Daniel came before Nebuchadnezzar, and said, “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.” And then, the scene suddenly changes: “You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:31-35) No wonder the king had found the dream so disturbing.
Note that Nebuchadnezzar hadn’t revealed the contents of the dream to Daniel (or anybody else, for that matter). Anyone who’s reasonably clever can “tell you” what a dream means if you reveal its subject matter to him first. Nebuchadnezzar was smart enough to know that such theories were worthless. What he needed was wisdom: comprehension that only Yahweh—whom he didn’t yet know—could provide. Young Daniel was happy to provide the king with an introduction, beginning with revealing the contents of the dream to his boss.
But he didn’t stop there. What did the esoteric vision mean? “This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king….” It would transpire that the vision revealed a timeline: a succession of four great gentile world powers that would dominate the “known world,” one after the other, followed by God’s response, destroying and replacing all of the governments of man. In the light of subsequent history, the first part is rather obvious. What is not quite so apparent is that the timeline is restricted to empires that had a part to play in Yahweh’s plan for the redemption of mankind. Each of these empires, it would transpire, “owned” the nation of Israel: all of them held governmental hegemony over the Land of Promise, and each of them in turn controlled the city of Jerusalem. (You’ll note that other “great empires”—like the Egyptians, Assyrians, Mongols, Aztecs, Islamic Caliphates, the British, Spanish, Soviets, or Nazis… had no part to play in the redemption of the human race, even those few who controlled Zion for a time.)
So starting with the “head” of the statue and working his way down, Daniel revealed what (or who) the image was about. “You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold….” Considering what we now know about symbolic Babylon—that its persona lent its name to the extremely pervasive religious, political, and financial entity known in later times as the “Harlot of Babylon,” this “head of gold” characterization seems exceedingly odd. But God, through Daniel, was addressing Nebuchadnezzar himself—not necessarily what Babel/Babylon had been, or what it would become.
Under Nebuchadnezzar (who was rightly called a “king of kings” here), Babylon became a super-power, controlling many nations, including Israel. His “greatness” began even before he received the throne from his late father Nabopolassar. The Battle of Carchemish, in which Prince Nebuchadnezzar had commanded the Babylonian forces, proved to be the turning point: “The Egyptians met the full might of the Babylonian and Median army led by Nebuchadnezzar II at Carchemish, where the combined Egyptian and Assyrian forces were destroyed. Assyria ceased to exist as an independent power, and Egypt retreated and was no longer a significant force in the Ancient Near East. Babylonia reached its economic peak after 605 BC.”—Wikipedia. Note that Assyria had taken Israel’s Northern Kingdom over a century before this. So at Carchemish, Assyria’s exiles became the property of Babylon. In other words, Ephraim and Judah had been reunited—the hard way.
God had entrusted Nebuchadnezzar to supervise Judah’s seventy-year “time out” period for bad behavior (see Jeremiah 29:10). But wait. Wasn’t it his armies who would raze Jerusalem and destroy its temple in 586 BC (18 years after his dream encounter)? Yes. But again, Nebuchadnezzar was functioning as the rod of correction in Yahweh’s hand. “Time out” in exile had proved insufficient to get Judah’s attention, so a firm “spanking” was called for. Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t perfect, of course: he didn’t get through his reign without making some serious blunders. (Neither did Israel’s King David, for that matter.) But at least three times, this pagan king is on record as extolling Yahweh, the God of Daniel and the Jewish nation (see Daniel 2:47, 3:28-29, and 4:34-37). When is the last time you heard of any emperor doing that?
As the “statue dream” continues, the metals used to describe the successor nations are progressively less valuable but greater in strength. “But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours [described as “silver” in 2:32]; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth….” Although not named here, these nations are identified in two subsequent visions Daniel was given. (We’ll address them in a bit.) We have already discussed Babylon (whose “head of gold” was Nebuchadnezzar II). The chest and arms of silver would be the Medo-Persian empire, a few of whose leaders Daniel served in his old age. The third kingdom, that of bronze, would turn out to be the Grecian empire under Alexander the Great and his successors. We’ll look at the others in turn as our study progresses.
At this point, I’d like to point out that Daniel’s visions in chapters 7 and 8 (and through the end of his book) are so detailed and specific, armies of liberal “scholars,” denying God’s ability to impart future information to His prophets, have labeled the book of Daniel a fraud. They claim it must have been written at least 400 years after the internal evidence would suggest. Actually, it’s far “worse” than the critics imagined: Daniel, in the amazing chapter 9 chronology prophecy, pins down the very day of Christ’s “official” advent. You’ve got to do the math on it, of course, and research your history, and I have. It comes out to Nisan 10 (Monday, March 28) 33 AD—the date of Yahshua’s Triumphal Entry. This fact makes Daniel’s inclusion among the pre-Christian era Septuagint and Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts a bit awkward for the critics. If you’d like to explore the evidence on this subject, I’d recommend reading Daniel in the Critics’ Den, by Josh McDowell (1979).
So what was to happen after the Grecian era? “And the fourth kingdom [Rome, not surprisingly] shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others….” We’re getting our first glimpse of a “kingdom” that will endure, though not in a single form, right up into the Last Days. The “legs” separated when the Byzantine empire was divided from Rome, though the prophet sees them as two legs of the same body. In its original form, the Roman Empire didn’t so much “crush” Greece as absorb it, leaving much of its culture intact. And it never held much of Medo-Persian or Babylonian territory at all. But think ahead: the Antichrist’s kingdom during the Tribulation will be based (as we shall see) in Europe, prompting generations of Bible Prophecy students to label it “the revived Roman Empire.” That will crush everything it touches.
And the rest of “Rome’s” description fits modern Europe far better than it does ancient Rome too, you must admit: “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.” (Daniel 2:36-43) The farther down the statue’s anatomy you go, the later we are in the timeline. So when we get to the feet and toes, we’re talking about unregenerate mankind’s final years. The strength of iron is easy enough to comprehend, but what does the “clay” represent? It’s brittle, though when fired it has reasonably good compressional strength: it doesn’t give in to pressure.
Looking at 21st century European culture, the answer becomes obvious (at least to me): the clay in the statue’s toes is Islam. Muslim culture doesn’t adhere to or mix with any other—not Christian (or post-Christian), secular humanist, Hindu, or anything else. Muslims, following their prophet and scriptures, have ruined their own nations. So they’ve immigrated by the millions to formerly Christian nations. But if they’re truly following Muhammad, they don’t assimilate into the culture of their adopted homes. Rather, they form Islamic enclaves, insulating themselves until they can breed themselves into a parasitic majority, at which point the host nation votes itself out of existence. This, by the way, is a 20th century phenomenon, thanks largely to the Muslim Brotherhood, which reintroduced dar al-Islam to its all but forgotten satanic roots in the 1930s.
As it turns out, it won’t really matter how Islamic inroads into European society might tend to make the place divided and dysfunctional. Before either side—the iron or the clay—can gain ascendency, God will call a halt to the whole thing: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people. It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever….” Human governance has had thousands of years to figure it out, and it has failed at every turn, getting progressively more oppressive and less worthy with every “changing of the guard.” Having made His point—that sinful man is incapable of running his own affairs—Yahweh now steps in.
It’s kind of funny, if you think about it. The World Economic Forum is currently pushing something they call “the Great Reset,” which is basically more of the same, only on steroids—globalism, socialism, nature-worship (used cynically, as a strategy to motivate the gullible), and total top-down control. It’s the transparent precursor to the Antichrist’s satanic kingdom. But here, Daniel describes what God’s “Great Reset” will look like: the complete destruction of the concept of “man ruling over men.” “Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.” (Daniel 2:33-45) That “Stone” is Yahshua the Messiah: God as King, reigning over the whole earth for a thousand years, and on into the eternal state.
“Broke in pieces,” however, doesn’t quite do it justice. Let us reprise how it was described in Nebuchadnezzar’s original dream: “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:35) In a delicious verbal twist, the word translated “wind,” that which will blow away every vestige of human government in this world, is ruach—also translated “Spirit,” as in the Holy Spirit. The “stone,” again, is Christ, whose kingdom will fill up the entire earth for a thousand years—becoming a “mountain” (that is, a place of majesty and power) that will endure for eternity.
Our introduction to the gentile nations was young Daniel’s interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s “statue” dream, which considering its scope was admittedly short on specifics. But many decades later, Daniel received two more visions (a couple of years apart) that fill in some of the blanks for us. They are related in his chapters 7 and 8. Although they flesh out and identify the gentile nations who would loom large in God’s plan of redemption (up until the time of Christ), we should not lose sight of the fact that Israel (as the delivery vehicle of that redemption) was always part of the picture: all four of the nations represented in Nebuchadnezzar’s statue vision controlled Israel, one way or another (either as custodians of their exiled condition, or overlords of their repatriated state).
Babylon (the “head of gold”) is barely mentioned in the later visions, because the Chaldean empire was in its waning years by this time: Nebuchadnezzar was out of the picture: his grandson Belshazzar occupied the throne. (“Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus by Nitocris, who was the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and the widow of Nergal-sharezer.”—Easton’s Bible Dictionary). Belshazzar’s reign began in 553 BC, about fourteen years before Babylon’s fall to their former ally, the Medes. That story is related in Daniel 5. So the visions of chapters 7 and 8 happened before the events of chapter 5: they’re out of chronological order.
Anyway, Daniel reports: “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts. Daniel spoke, saying, ‘I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.’” The symbology tells us that Yahweh’s Spirit was shaping events in the gentile world. “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.” (Daniel 7:1-4) The first beast was Nebuchadnezzar, whose experience of being humbled and debased for seven years, and then being restored, is told in Daniel 4.
Please forgive me if I seem to be skipping around like a butterfly in a hurricane. My purpose here (unlike Daniel’s) is to break down the narrative by subject: first, the circumstances of his visions, then the succession of gentile nations he was shown (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome), and then God’s plan for His own everlasting kingdom. Daniel merely wrote things down in the order he saw them. We aren’t told where Daniel was when he saw the first dream, though it was probably the city of Babylon. But the second vision began like this: “In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me—to me, Daniel—after the one that appeared to me the first time. I saw in the vision, and it so happened while I was looking, that I was in Shushan, the citadel, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in the vision that I was by the River Ulai.” (Daniel 8:1-2)
Shushan (Susa) is about 240 miles east of Babylon. The Ulai river, near Shushan, feeds into the Tigris River just before it empties into the Persian Gulf. Elsewhere, I have observed that the Tigris-Euphrates River systems seem to comprise a timeline of sorts. Their headwaters in Asia Minor (where Eden was) speak of man’s beginning, and the Persian Gulf is our “destination.” Genesis 2 speaks of four rivers flowing from Eden, two of which have been lost (presumably in the Flood of Noah). The four rivers (in my admittedly overactive imagination) seem to represent different religious traditions that developed, perhaps represented by the four descendants of Adam profiled in Genesis 4: Cain (the jealous murderer), Abel (the godly victim), Lamech (the proud and worldly), and Seth (the father of those who call upon Yahweh). My observations are all quite speculative, you understand. This is a long way from established doctrine.
The surviving two rivers are the Hiddekel (a.k.a the Tigris), which seems to correlate to the Seth’s Godly line, and the Euphrates (apparently symbolic of Lamech’s line, a route which is considerably more circuitous, running through Babylon). The “tipoff” for me was this: the Euphrates “dead ends” into the Tigris just before the final destination is reached. That is, we are destined to become one people, spiritually speaking. In the end, only “Seth’s” godly line will survive.
If the theory has any validity at all, my point is that the Ulai (where Daniel saw his final “gentile” vision) speaks ultimately of the time just before we enter the eternal state—the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. As it turns out, the angel Gabriel, tasked with making Daniel understand what he was being shown, confirms my chronological observation: “Then it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, ‘Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.’” That’s the second mention of the River Ulai, alerting us to be on the lookout for something significant. “So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face; but he said to me, ‘Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.’ Now, as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me, and stood me upright. And he said, ‘Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be.’” (Daniel 8:15-18)
“The time of the end… in the latter time of the indignation… at the appointed time the end shall be.” Everything Daniel saw—all of the future history leading up to it—speaks of what Nebuchadnezzar had witnessed at the very beginning: “In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people.” (Daniel 2:44)
Note Daniel’s state of mind upon hearing these visions: he was visibly shaken—to the point of losing consciousness. Gabriel told him, “‘Seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future.’ And I, Daniel, fainted and was sick for days; afterward I arose and went about the king’s business. I was astonished by the vision, but no one understood it.” (Daniel 8:26-27) He hadn’t fared much better in the first vision: “I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near to one of those who stood by [apparently, an angel], and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: ‘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.’” (Daniel 7:15-18) As in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, four gentile kings (or kingdoms) would represent the power structure of the earth as Yahweh went about fulfilling His plan for our redemption. But in the end the government of the earth would rest solely upon the shoulders of Yahweh’s Messiah-King, and the beneficiaries of His benign rule would be the “saints,” the holy ones—we who are set-apart for God’s purposes.
You can’t really blame Daniel for becoming physically ill at the whole revelation. Even though the bottom line was a very good thing, it was utterly unlike anything he had ever witnessed in his long life as a public servant. He had absolutely no frame of reference. “As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart.” (Daniel 7:28) He would continue to be shown things for the rest of his life that no one else had ever seen. His vision in chapter 10 left him similarly shaken: “I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength.” (Daniel 10:8) “As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me.” (Daniel 10:17)
In the final chapter of his writings, the angel told him to relax: this information wasn’t for him, it was for us. “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end…. But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days.” (Daniel 12:9, 13) That last statement, in case you missed it, is a description of the rapture. Daniel can be expected to be among “the dead in Christ [who] will arise first.” (See I Thessalonians 4:15-18.) Daniel went through a lot to bring us this information. I’d say we owe him a huge debt of gratitude.
MEDO-PERSIA: BENIGN POWER
Since Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon (the “head of gold” in his vision) was pretty much a done deal by the time of the Daniel 7 vision, the prophet wasn’t given any new information about it. Rather, we jump directly to what Nebuchadnezzar had seen as a chest and arms of silver. This second vision presented the same subjects as a series of animals, each symbolic in turn of its defining characteristic. “And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear….” Bears are known for their brute strength, their ability to intimidate by virtue of their very presence.
Though not identified here, this beast was later revealed to be the composite empire of Media and Persia. “It was raised up on one side [the dominant “side” being Persia], and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’” (Daniel 7:5) The three ribs in the Bear’s mouth probably refer to Persia’s most significant conquests, Lydia (read: western Turkey—546 B.C.), Babylonia (539), and Egypt (in 525). That is to say, Medo-Persia ended up controlling far more territory than Babylon had at the height of its power, including (of course) the Promised Land.
The Daniel 8 vision gives us more insight, with different imagery. “Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and there, standing beside the river, was a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last….” This time, we see Nebuchadnezzar’s second gentile kingdom presented as a ram. Its two horns, Media and Persia, are symbolic of its political or military power. Geographically, they straddled the area between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf—Media in the north, and Persia in the south. Media rose to prominence first. (You’ll recall, they had been Babylon’s ally at the politically crucial Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, which spelled the end of Egyptian and Assyrian power.) Although they’re presented as one “animal” in Daniel’s prophecy, the fact is that Persia, under Cyrus II (“the Great”) had defeated Media in battle over a decade before the fall of Babylon. But they are seen as “one” here because Persia had taken over the far more extensive Median interests as a going concern. Politically, it was more like “regime change” than Assyrian-style conquest and subjugation.
“I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great.” (Daniel 8:3-4) At the height of its power, Persia controlled everything from Greece to the Indus River valley, and from the Caucasus Mountains to Egypt and the Persian Gulf. “The ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia.” (Daniel 8:20) Cyrus II (“the Great”) was Babylon’s conqueror of record. So who is “Darius the Mede,” mentioned in Daniel 5 and 6—the one who functioned as a “king” over the conquered Babylonia? “Darius” is a transliteration of Darejavesh—a title rather than a name. He is most likely Gobryas, the general who was first to enter Babylon when it fell to the Persians in 539 BC., serving under the auspices of Cyrus. According to Daniel 9:1, he was of Median lineage.
The remarkable thing to my mind was that Cyrus the Great was mentioned by name in a prophecy some 150 years before the fall of Babylon. Isaiah speaks of Yahweh, “who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”’ Thus says Yahweh to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut: ‘I will go before you and make the crooked places straight. I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, Yahweh, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.’” (Isaiah 44:28-45:1-3)
This may be the closest thing we’ll find in scripture to a self-fulfilling prophecy: First, we read, “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of Yahweh by the mouth of Jeremiah [25:11] might be fulfilled, Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth Yahweh God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May Yahweh his God be with him, and let him go up!” (II Chronicles 36:22-23, cf. Ezra 1:1-4) GotQuestions.org explains: “We are told Daniel served until at least the third year of King Cyrus, approximately 536 BC (Daniel 10:1). That being the case, Daniel likely had some personal involvement in the decree that was made in support of the Jews. The historian Josephus says that Cyrus was informed of the biblical prophecies written about him (Antiquities of the Jews, XI.1.2). The natural person to have shown Cyrus the scrolls was Daniel, a high-ranking official in Persia. (Daniel 6:28).”
So we see that the Persian Empire, beginning with its very first king (i.e., as far as Israel’s exiles were concerned) was generally a friend and supporter of the Jewish captives they had “inherited” from Babylon. Cyrus authorized and funded the rebuilding of the temple, going so far as to repatriate 5,400 articles of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar had “liberated” from the temple before destroying it. Zerubbabel was put in charge of Cyrus’ initial temple building project. Alas, percentage-wise, very few of the Jewish captives chose to return to Jerusalem with him, for they had lived their entire lives in Babylonian captivity, and they had grown comfortable in their exile. The temple restoration had been authorized in 537 BC. Construction began two years later, but due to a series of interruptions and miscommunications, it wasn’t finished and dedicated until 515.
By the time of King Ahasuerus (a.k.a. Xerxes), who reigned from 486-465 BC, the Jews had thoroughly assimilated into Persian society, not as captives, but as free citizens. In the king’s seventh year, he authorized a priest and scribe named Ezra to take a group of priests and Levites to return to Jerusalem from Babylon, to assist with the temple service. In roughly this same time frame, the Book of Esther describes how she became Ahasuerus’ queen, how a satanic plot to wipe out the entire Jewish race was foiled, and how her uncle Mordecai rose to become a ruler second in power only to King Ahasuerus himself.
Another wave of Jewish repatriation was begun in the twentieth year of the reign of Ahasuerus’ son, Artaxerxes (444 BC), when Nehemiah, the King’s trusted Jewish cupbearer received news that Jerusalem’s city and wall were still in disrepair, and the Jewish inhabitants who had returned with Zerubbabel and Ezra were being harassed and hindered by the local pagans. Having no “poker face” at all, Nehemiah couldn’t hide his dismay. The king pried the truth out of him, and (to his great surprise, I’m sure) offered to send him to Jerusalem to address the problem. (This is the decree, by the way, that sets the timeline for the astounding prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27, received in 539 BC., pinpointing the advent of the Messiah: the clock began ticking on Nisan 1, 444 BC, and the “alarm” sounded 173,880 days later, on the day of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Monday, Nisan 10—March 28—in 33 AD.)
The bottom line for Persia is that strength and success need not necessarily equate to brutality or evil. Political power does not automatically bring God’s wrath with it. From the very beginning (i.e., from their conquest of Babylon), the Persians generally treated their “inherited” Jewish captives with respect and kindness, honoring their God and even funding the rebuilding of their temple. With the exception of Haman’s short-lived plot for the genocide of the Jews in Esther’s time (brought about by one man’s trickery and subterfuge, not by any national Hitleresque hatred against Israel), the Persians were generally on the right side of the Abrahamic formula: “I [Yahweh] will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.” (Genesis 12:3)
GREECE: SUDDEN PENT-UP RAGE
Our survey of Daniel’s prophetic parade of kingdoms continues: “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.” (Daniel 7:6) We observe that symbolically, leopards are swift and deadly hunters. And Greece under Alexander the Great certainly fits that description. Between his ascension to the throne of Macedonia in 336 BC, at the age of twenty, to his untimely death at thirty-two (323 BC), Alexander conquered the entire well-entrenched Persian empire, who had been a thorn in Greece’s side for generations.
The prophet speaks of “four wings and four heads.” I guess the question would be, “What is faster and more ferocious than a leopard?” A four-winged leopard with four heads, of course. Historically, this is a reference to Alexander’s four generals, Lysimachus, Cassander, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. While fighting among themselves after Alexander’s death, they split up his legacy between them, consolidating his gains over the next fifty years.
Why was Alexander in such a fury to conquer the Persian Empire? It’s because Persia had overrun Greece, and not just once. In 536 B.C., three years after the Persians had taken over Babylon, Daniel was informed: “Behold, three more kings [after the current king, Cyrus] will arise in Persia [Cambyses, Pseudo-Smerdis, and Darius I Hystapes, a.k.a. “Darius the Great”], and the fourth [Xerxes] shall be far richer than them all; by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece….”
“Xerxes I is notable in Western history for his invasion of Greece in 480 BC. His forces temporarily overran mainland Greece north of the Isthmus of Corinth until losses at Salamis and Plataea a year later reversed these gains and ended the second invasion decisively. However, Xerxes successfully crushed revolts in Egypt and Babylon…. After Thermopylae, Athens was captured. Most of the Athenians had abandoned the city and fled to the island of Salamis before Xerxes arrived. A small group attempted to defend the Athenian Acropolis, but they were defeated. Xerxes ordered the destruction of Athens and burnt the city, leaving an archaeologically attested destruction layer, known as the Perserschutt. The Persians thus gained control of all of mainland Greece to the north of the Isthmus of Corinth.”—Wikipedia. The Persians and Greeks continued fighting each other for another century and a half, until the animosity between them had reached the point of no return.
So Daniel was informed, “Then a mighty king [Alexander the Great] shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.” Do you remember our discussion of Alexander’s siege of Tyre? The seemingly impregnable island city was a primary source of Persia’s wealth. Alexander knew that taking out Tyre would seriously weaken his historic foe. “And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be uprooted, even for others besides these.” (Daniel 11:2-4) Alexander died at the tender age of 32 after carving out one of the largest empires the world had yet known—mostly at Persian expense. His only son, Alexander Aegus, born after his death to his Bactrian princess Roxana, would not live long enough to follow in his father’s footsteps. The empire, rather, was literally “divided toward the four winds,” when Alexander’s four generals split up the spoils among them.
Daniel (in the chapter 8 vision) was given a “bird’s eye view” of Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire. Previously, we had seen him as a winged leopard; now he is presented as a flying goat. “And as I was considering [the vision of the ram—Persia], suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. Then he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power. And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns.” That is, both Persia and what was left of Media fell to the Greeks. “There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand. Therefore the male goat grew very great….”
“But when he became strong, the large horn was broken….” As we have seen, this “horn,” Alexander, died very young. But he didn’t die in battle, as we might have expected. Theories as to the cause of his death include alcohol abuse or murder by poisoning. The weird thing is, for a week after his death, his body did not show any signs of decomposition. “In 2018 Dr. Katherine Hall, a lecturer at Dunedin School of Medicine in New Zealand, proposed that Alexander the Great had Guillain-Barré syndrome, an acute autoimmune condition that results in muscle paralysis. In other words, Alexander may have been alive when he was declared dead—a mistake that could have been made when physicians mistook the shallow breathing of a coma patient for no breathing at all. If this was the case, Alexander may have been effectively murdered during embalming—a process that would have seen him disemboweled.”—Britannica. All we know for sure was that “the large horn was broken.” If you’re keeping score, this took place in 323 BC.
“And in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven.” These, as noted above, were Alexander’s four generals, Lysimachus, Cassander, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. “And out of one of them [Seleucus] came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land….” The lion’s share fell to the Seleucids, though originally, Syria, the Levant, and Egypt were under the control of the Ptolemies. But in 200 BC, the battle of Panium resulted in the annihilation of the Ptolemaic army by the Seleucids. The Ptolemies never recovered from their defeat at Panium: they ceased to be an independent power. So the Seleucids controlled the “Glorious Land” (Israel) from 200 BC forward.
The Seleucid “little horn” would turn out to be Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who reigned from 175 to 164 BC. “And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them. He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices; and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered.” Antiochus began his persecution of the Jews (here called the “host of heaven”) in 171 BC, slaughtering a sow on the altar of the second temple. This blasphemous act would serve as the prototype for the “Abomination of Desolation” that will take place in the Last Days. (See Matthew 24:15; Daniel 11:31, 12:11) “Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, ‘How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?’ And he said to me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed….’” (Daniel 8:5-14) 2,300 days after this Abomination of Desolation (in December, 165 BC, now celebrated as Hanukah) Judas Maccabeus finally succeeded in restoring the temple for its proper service.
Bear in mind that all of these events would come to pass hundreds of years in the future, from Daniel’s perspective. He had no frame of reference for them as he pondered the vision. But it was about to get even “worse.” “Then it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, ‘Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.’ So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face; but he said to me, ‘Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end….’” If you’ll recall my observation from a few pages back, the reference to the Ulai River (which flowed into the Tigris near its egress into the Persian Gulf) was a geographically symbolic clue that the Last Days were in view.
In other words, the Antiochus IV “abomination” incident was merely going to be a dress rehearsal for the real performance, a hint as to what it means to defile the sanctuary. The time in which this brutal scumbag lived could hardly be called “the time of the end.” In the very next chapter (a prophecy given thirteen years later) Daniel was told that the Messiah would come almost 200 years after Antiochus (not in so many words, you understand; you have to do the math). So “the latter time of the indignation” had to refer to something even later.
The angel therefore revived Daniel, who had fainted, and summed up the vision of the gentile powers so far: “Now, as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me, and stood me upright. And he said, ‘Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be.” His point was that all of this maneuvering would have ramifications far beyond the history of gentile power in the world. So far (after Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon), “The ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia. And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king. As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power.” (Daniel 8:15-22) So far, so good.
But this is where the whole thing gets a little strange. “And in the latter time of their kingdom [that is, the Grecian Empire], when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power. He shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive. He shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. Through his cunning He shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule, and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes, but he shall be broken without human means.” (Daniel 8:23-25) This prophecy clearly goes beyond the exploits of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, but it’s a perfect fit for the one we call the Antichrist—the “man of sin,” the “son of perdition”—the ultimate gentile ruler, one who hasn’t shown his face yet.
Wait, what? Greece was only the third kingdom, the “belly and thighs of bronze” in Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. What about Rome (which we’ll discuss in a moment), the legs and feet of iron, with toes of iron mixed with clay at the end of the age? As we shall see, Rome and Greece are both said to be the home of the Antichrist’s kingdom. The solution to the conundrum lies in the geography of the thing. Greece (and especially the Seleucids) took over the Persian Empire, which stretched from Macedonia and Greece in the west to the Indus River Valley in the east. Rome, in contrast, developed toward the west—all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. They also made the Mediterranean Sea their own private pond, controlling its entire perimeter. Their territory in the north extended all the way to the Danube and Rhine Rivers. But the farthest east Rome controlled was Syria. The one place that all four empires held in common was the Holy Land.
We’re trying to figure out how both Greece and Rome could be said to be the home of the Antichrist’s kingdom. It behooves us, therefore, to look for the places where Grecian territory and the Roman empire overlapped or were geographically contiguous. Let’s look at the areas that might fit that description:
(1) In Revelation 13, he is described as “the beast from the sea,” so we can be assured that the Antichrist is a gentile (though he has Jewish help from the “false prophet,” a.k.a. the “beast from the land.”) Also, Daniel says, “And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” (Daniel 9:26) The people so described were Romans, who sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD. So we can safely rule out the Holy Land as the origin of the Antichrist (a.k.a. “the prince who is to come”), even though both Greece and Rome controlled the place.
(2) The “confirmation” of the Antichrist’s “covenant with many” (Daniel 9:27) is the event that will begin the Tribulation—the final seven year period (out of seventy “sevens”) defining Israel’s destiny. Therefore, since several place-names associated with modern-day Turkey (Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Togarmah) are presented as violators of that treaty (Ezekiel 38:3-6) we can rule out the biggest geographical overlap of all: Turkey, along with nations to the east that are dominated by Islam today.
(3) That leaves a relatively small area straddling the Adriatic Sea. On the eastern side, Macedonia and Greece, Alexander’s power base, provide the Grecian component. And on the west lies Italy, center of the Roman Empire. In between (i.e., north of Macedonia) is what we call the Balkans today—Roman territories all. It is here where all of the requirements for the Antichrist’s ten nation confederacy come together. We’ll look at this area in detail in a moment. But I’m getting just slightly ahead of myself: first, we must consider what is prophesied concerning the fourth kingdom—Rome.
ROME: THE QUEST FOR ULTIMATE POWER
In Nebuchadnezzar’s statue vision, the fourth gentile world power was said to be the legs of iron. “The fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay…. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile…. they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.” (Daniel 2:40, 42-43) Although never “named” in scripture, the obvious historical successor to the Grecian empire is Rome, the most powerful gentile empire by far. Rome played its unenviable role in Yahweh’s plan for the redemption of mankind by crucifying the Messiah, and then, within a generation, destroying Jerusalem and its temple in retribution for Israel’s part as the instigator and mastermind of the whole drama.
Yet the more I study this, the less I see Imperial Rome as anything more than a symbol, a prophetic placeholder, of the real fourth kingdom: that of the Antichrist. The differences are subtle, but fundamental. Rome of old was definitely strong, but not utterly destructive as the prophetic narrative describes. The whole idea, after all, was to take what other people had built and tax it within an inch of its life. You can’t derive tribute from somebody you’ve killed. The Roman Empire was a bully, to be sure, but one whose motivation was financial: they were nothing but a thief—a big, incredibly successful thief. “Breaking in pieces, shattering everything, and crushing your adversaries” would not have gotten historic Rome what they really wanted: riches. We’re so used to this sort of thing nowadays, we hardly even recognize it anymore. It’s business as usual.
In Daniel’s chapter 7 vision, careful analysis reveals a different emphasis from that of historic Rome: destruction and domination, not mere avarice (except perhaps as a motivational tool). “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.” So far, it’s a perfect match for Nebuchadnezzar’s fourth kingdom. “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 7:7-8) Horns symbolically represent concentrations of power—especially governments or nations. None of the previous gentile powers began as “collectives” or groups of nations—even Rome in its initial permutation. This one will.
The “little horn” mentioned here will not rise to power in a single nation, as did Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, or Alexander. Rather, he will pull together a coalition of existing nations, creating of them a new force to be reckoned with. In the process, three of the ten nations will lose their individual identities. The “little horn’s” ability to build a coalition of disparate self-interested states (remember: they’re characterized as “iron and clay”) into a regional superpower will earn him a reputation as a world-class diplomat—someone who can bring people together despite their differences and get them to work together for “the common good.” This diplomatic genius will turn out to be the one we know as “the Antichrist.” He may be pompous and arrogant, but he can definitely get things done in an age in which most national leaders are ineffective and incompetent.
Later in the same passage, an angel helps Daniel understand what’s going on. “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 whole earth” is an interesting phrase. Alexander was said to have “wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer,” a conversational exaggeration, of course. But in these Last Days, the entire globe has been explored, mapped, and occupied. So when the Antichrist is said to “devour the whole earth,” I think we can safely say that the whole earth is meant—literally. And again, we must comprehend that “devouring the whole earth, trampling it, and breaking it in pieces” is something unprecedented in the history of mankind. Obviously, the Antichrist will promise utopia, but what he will deliver will look more like Berlin in 1945.
The angel continues his explanation: “The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom.” That is, even though the Roman Empire is long gone, this ten-nation confederacy is related to it, both in its aggressive spirit and its geography. “And another shall rise after them: he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings.” Now we’re talking about a man, the driving force behind the coalition: the Antichrist. “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.” The church of the rapture, Philadelphia, was said to have “a little strength.” (Revelation 3:8) But for the Antichrist’s persecution of the saints to be successful, their power must be “completely shattered” (as the situation is characterized in Daniel 12:7). He is describing the left-behind church of Laodicea (and probably re-awakened Israel as well), those who will come to faith after the rapture. “Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time….”
This statement sets up our timeline for us, in broad terms. The Antichrist won’t be “revealed” as such until after Philadelphia is caught up. (See II Thessalonians 2:7-8.) The Tribulation proper won’t begin until he has put together his ten-horned Roman coalition (Daniel 9:27), because until then, he can’t have achieved the diplomatic status necessary to “confirm his covenant with many,” which promises to achieve the impossible—achieve peace in the Middle East. This is why I foresee a gap of several years between the rapture of the church and the beginning of the Tribulation: there’s an awful lot for Satan to get done between the two events. But the Tribulation will last seven years (schematic, 360-day “years,” called “times” in scripture). The “time, times, and half a time” (or three and a half years) referred to here are in the last half of the Tribulation, when the Antichrist has been made “Dictator” of the entire planet. I get the feeling that if he had been allowed to retain power any longer than that, no one would have survived. “But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever.’” (Daniel 7:23-26)
Obviously, I’ve described only the tip of the iceberg. See The End of the Beginning, Volume 2 (elsewhere on this website), for the whole complicated story. For our present purposes, we’re “merely” trying to pin down the nature of the fourth (and final) gentile kingdom. For the rest of the story, let us visit the Book of Revelation, where John uses a lot of the same imagery that Daniel did. I’ll present the data in the same order they appear in Revelation. Don’t blame me if this gets a little confusing: this is John’s vision, not mine.
“And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.” (Revelation 12:3) The ten-horned kingdom, with seven (remaining) crowned heads, is as the Antichrist’s home kingdom was presented in Daniel. But notice here who’s really running things: the great fiery dragon—Satan. The dragon himself is also said to have the seven heads and ten horns: in its ultimate permutation, these aren’t merely gentile nations (as Daniel saw them), but are manifestations of satanic power—the intended means by which Lucifer intends to usurp the throne of earth—or kill us all in the attempt. Note too where the “sign” appeared: in heaven. That is, John is being shown bottom-line truth, unfiltered through the gauze of human history.
In his next chapter, John is given a broader view. I’ll endeavor to sort out the symbols as we encounter them: “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name….” The “sea” is indicative of the gentile world. The “beast” rising up out of it is the Antichrist (or the demon who controls him), and in the broader sense, the ten-nation coalition in which he rises to power. We now see the seven heads and ten horns on him, as we saw them on Satan previously: they are operating in concert. But in a subtle twist, notice where the crowns are: in Revelation 12:3, they were seen on the seven heads, but here they’re on the ten horns. Since seven is the number of completion, I would take this to mean that Satan sees himself as ruling the entire world, while the Antichrist is relying on global governmental power to see his plans come to fruition. It’s hard to be dogmatic about this one, of course. Suffice it to say that it won’t make much difference to the hapless souls inhabiting planet earth when this all happens. The neo-believers of Laodicea and sequestered pre-redeemed Israel will be the Antichrist’s targets; everybody else will simply be cannon fodder.
As in Daniel, the “beast” is now compared to animals, allowing us to discern his character traits: “Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority….” If you’ll recall, Alexander’s Greece was compared to a leopard, the swift killer. We saw Persia equated to a bear—the epitome of strength. And Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was described as a lion: the one who speaks with authority. The fourth kingdom (Rome) was simply described as “dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong.” But until now, none of the kingdoms or their leaders have been connected directly to the dragon, Satan. Now we know why the Antichrist’s achievements are so impressive: he’s getting satanic help.
Next, we’re given some insight into who the Antichrist is counterfeiting: it’s Yahshua the Messiah, who was crucified for our redemption. He’s not willing to go that far, of course, but in the post-rapture world, a fake resurrection from a “fatal” head wound is guaranteed to fool some of the people most of the time: “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’…” At this point, the mask is off: the Antichrist has revealed who his “god” is, and the vast majority of humanity follow him like lemmings toward the cliff of destruction. They’re saying, “He’s following the devil himself. If you can’t beat him, join him.” Just as the worship of Yahshua the Messiah and the worship of Father Yahweh are (correctly) seen as the same thing, people will worship Satan and the Antichrist as if they were one.
“And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months….” Although to all appearances Satan and his meat puppet are in control, note who is really in charge. Only Yahweh could restrict the Antichrist’s reign to forty-two months. This isn’t going to be any “thousand-year Reich,” as in Hitler’s pipe-dream. Rather, the beast is going to be given just enough time to force the world’s rapidly dwindling populace to choose sides. No one during this three and a half year period will be able to ignore the ramifications of satanic power wielded through the Antichrist: it will impossible not to take sides, not to make a choice. If nothing else, the Antichrist’s 666 financial system (Revelation 13:16-18) will force the issue: join him, or become a non-person, hunted and hounded under a legally mandated death sentence as an enemy of the global state.
“Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven….” Blasphemy is vilification and slander, especially toward God. Helps Word-studies notes: “Blasphemy switches right for wrong (and wrong for right), calling what God disapproves, ‘right,’ which ‘exchanges the truth of God for a lie’ (see Romans 1:25 [not to mention Isaiah 5:20]).” When the Antichrist blasphemes the tabernacle, he is actually slandering God’s plan for the salvation of mankind (which is what the tabernacle symbolizes, in a hundred little details). And “those who dwell in heaven?” These are the raptured saints, both “those who were asleep” and “we who are alive and remain” when Christ catches us up into the clouds to be with Him. (See I Thessalonians 4:15-18.) If you think about it, this is more evidence of a pre-tribulation rapture: the Antichrist is blaspheming us because he can’t actually touch us.
Who can he touch? Those multitudes who will come to faith after the rapture: the tardy saints of “Laodicea.” “It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them.” This is what it means to “buy gold tried in the fire,” as Christ counselled the Laodiceans: be faithful unto death. “And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:1-8) For three and a half horrible years, the neo-believers of Laodicea will have two choices: run and hide, or stay and die. Countless multitudes will be martyred for their new-found faith (see Revelation 6:9-11 and 7:9-17). But there will also be hordes of belatedly repentant souls who will manage to evade the headman’s axe until the end of the Tribulation. These will comprise the “nations” who will honor King Yahshua during the Millennium, a.k.a. the righteous “sheep” of Matthew 25:31-46, who will inherit eternal life (unlike the “goats”—seen here as worshiping the Antichrist).
Our next destination is Revelation 17, which definitely ties the “seven heads and ten horns” to the Roman Empire, though with some unexpected twists. “But the angel said to me [John], ‘Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns….” The “woman” is the whore of Babylon, the octopus-like entity who (at the moment) runs the whole world from behind the scenes. The beast (the Antichrist and his kingdom) is seen being ridden by the Harlot, though he’d love to throw her off.
Now this is where it gets tricky: “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition.” We’ll circle back to this one. “Was, and is not, and will be,” is admittedly a counterintuitive statement. “And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.” This is a description of Rome: the “city on seven hills.” “There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time….” The angel is delivering chronological information to John: we must look at this information through his eyes. In The End of the Beginning, chapter 14 (Mystery: Babylon), I tracked down the players. They add up to one thing—the Roman Empire:
“The first thing to note is that one of the seven Kings, the sixth, was said to be in power in John’s day: ‘One is.’ That establishes beyond a doubt that Rome and/or its ruler(s) are in view. But where does the line of ‘kings’ start? The first real emperor of Rome was not Julius Caesar (who technically led the empire under the auspices of the Republic), but his great-nephew and adopted son Octavian, who assumed the honorific title Augustus Caesar, in charge when Yahshua was born. Number two was Tiberius, in whose time Yahshua of Nazareth ministered in the Roman province of Judea. Next came Gaius, a.k.a. Caligula, followed by Claudius. Number five was Nero, the first Roman emperor to officially persecute the Church. Nero’s suicide in 68 left the empire in a chaotic leadership vacuum that took a year to fill. Galba, Otho, and Vitellius all got their shot but couldn’t manage to consolidate their grasp on power (which is admittedly hard to do after you’re dead), and thus couldn’t properly be called ‘kings.’ The man who ended up on the throne was a soldier, a commoner: Vespasian, who ruled from 69 to 79—interrupting his invasion of Judea to seize the throne. If you’re keeping score, you’ve noticed that he’s in position number six, making him the one who ‘is,’ that is, the king who was in charge when John had his vision. That would make number seven, the king who has ‘not yet come,’ his son Titus, the destroyer of Jerusalem and its temple. Did he ‘continue for a short time,’ as the prophecy said? He reigned from June 24, A.D. 79 to September 13, 81—less than two and a half years. I’d call that a big yes….”
“If you’re sharp though, you’ve noticed that this scenario has its own little snag. Tradition suggests that John received his Patmos vision in the 90s, not the 70s. He was exiled to the Aegean island during a great persecution—presumably Domitian’s. But traditions aren’t always factual. I believe he was sent off under Nero’s purge instead, in the 60s, when Peter and Paul bought the farm. That would have put John on Patmos during Vespasian’s reign, a revered elder well into his seventies but not quite the ancient apostle of legend—yet. (Tertullian, by the way, agrees with me. And everyone concurs that he didn’t die on Patmos.)”
All of that information was given to us so that we might know that Rome will literally be a part of the final last-days ten (or seven)-nation empire. “The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition. The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.’” (Revelation 17:7-13) Okay, now we need to sort out that mysterious statement about the beast who “was, is not, and will be again.” TEOTB again: “The angel is clearly describing a demon, not a man, a demon who had already come and gone at least once in John’s time but would return from the abyss to possess the beast, the Antichrist. In context, this spirit is connected with one of the seven kings of Rome, specifically one of the five who had ‘fallen’ when John wrote the story. The logical candidate, of course, is Nero, the first imperial persecutor of the Christians (and don’t forget; it was Nero who sent Vespasian and Titus to Judea to pummel the Jews). So what happens when we compare the historical life of Nero with the prophesied life of Antichrist? We hit pay dirt.” I won’t repeat the whole thing here. Feel free to consult chapter 14 of TEOTB for my research on the remarkable parallels between Nero and the coming Antichrist. It is my considered opinion that the same demon who inhabited Nero will return to take up residence in the soul of the Antichrist.
Tying up another loose end from earlier in this chapter, let us focus once again on the Harlot of Babylon, she who (at the moment) controls pretty much the entire world—its government and military, its commerce and financial structure, and its religion, academia, and media. How does “she” relate to the final kingdom?
To reprise: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’ So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus…. The woman whom you saw is that great city [read: system] which reigns over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:1-6, 18) She’s seen “sitting on” the beast, along with everybody else—controlling them, manipulating them, and getting filthy rich in the process.
It is in Yahweh’s interests to rid the world of the Whore of Babylon, of course. But until the Second Coming of Christ, His modus operandi will be (as it always has been) to refrain from infringing on humanity’s right to choose their own destiny. That being said, God has deigned to inform us how this particular pervasively evil system will be brought to her knees: “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” (Revelation 17:15-17) One systemic evil is being replaced with another one—as usual, even more evil. John’s next chapter (Revelation 18) describes how Babylon’s fall will take place in “one hour,” very suddenly. This will effectively make the Antichrist’s kingdom—the first empire to rule the entire world—the last remaining enemy.
But how does a seven (or ten) nation kingdom turn into a global empire? Some eighteen years ago (2005, updated in 2015) I articulated my theory of how this could all work out, and I haven’t seen anything since that has compelled me to change my position. This (and much more on the subject) is from The End of the Beginning, chapter 11 (The Gap):
“I have formulated a theory as to how this ten-nation empire of the Antichrist might come about. Please bear in mind that this is all somewhat speculative. First, let us quickly review the ground rules: The ten “horns” or nations of Daniel and Revelation (the Antichrist’s ten-nation kingdom) are defined as follows:
“1. They must be part of the old Roman Empire, and include the city of Rome. (Daniel 7:7, 9:26, Revelation 17:9)
“2. The final form of this nation (the “toes” of Nebuchadnezzar’s visionary statue) will be mixed, part strong, part weak; and its parts will not adhere to each other. Perhaps this implies a mixture of Orthodox/Catholic and Muslim cultures. (Daniel 2:40-44)
“3. The Antichrist himself will apparently come from the Grecian empire, which under Alexander’s successor, Antigonus, did not extend west of Albania or north of the Danube River. (Daniel 8:21-24) It should be noted that, like Napoleon or Hitler, the Antichrist will not necessarily be born in the same nation in which he rises to power.
“4. Three of the original ten nations will be absorbed into the Antichrist’s nation, maybe one of the ten, but perhaps an eleventh. (Daniel 7:8, 23-24, Revelation 13:1)
“5. The Antichrist’s nation is “little” and will arise after the others. (Daniel 7:8, 23-24)
“6. The Antichrist will conduct a war against an Islamic confederation that includes Turkey. Thus Turkey won’t be part of his ten-nation kingdom, however well it fits the profile in other ways. (Ezekiel 38:3-6, Daniel 11:40-43)
“Therefore, I believe the nations in the Antichrist’s ten-nation empire will be—drum roll, please—a Balkan-area superstate including the following nations: (1) Italy, the heart of the old Roman Empire and E.U. member; (2) Slovenia, E.U. member and northern anchor for the Balkan states; (3) Croatia, a current applicant for E.U. membership (a referendum on E.U. membership was approved by Croatian voters on January 22, 2012, but as of the time of this writing, the Croatian accession treaty is yet to be ratified by the E.U. member states); (4) Bosnia-Herzegovina (recognized by the EU as a potential candidate); (5) Serbia, which in 2003 joined itself tenuously to (6) Montenegro (The two nations have separate administrative functions and governmental leaders, but share economic and military ties. Together, they are known as “Serbia and Montenegro”—not Serbia-Montenegro—betraying a relationship that is every bit as separate as it is united. Both are candidates for E.U. membership.); (7) Albania (whose application for E.U. membership has been submitted); (8) Macedonia, E.U. candidate and Alexander’s original homeland (though much smaller than it was in his day); (9) Bulgaria, an E.U. member; and (10) Greece, E.U. member and Alexander’s power base.” (I gave this list a “Speculation Factor” of 4/10, meaning it’s a solid, Biblically consistent theory, but by no means a sure thing.)
“Lands north of this block (i.e., north of the Danube) were never part of the Roman Empire, nor were they part of Antigonus’ quarter of Alexander’s kingdom. The Antichrist himself would (according to the theory) come from one of the newest nations in the group—definitely not Italy, because it was never a part of Alexander’s empire. My own admittedly wild guess is that he hails from Macedonia, a recently independent fragment of the former Yugoslavia.”
The scenario would be that the Antichrist (he won’t be called this, of course) will pull together his “United States of the Adriatic,” despite their “iron and clay” character and cultural differences, forming a union that can hold its own within the European Union against such formidable entities as Germany, France, Scandinavia, or Spain. (“Brexit” is now complete: the U.K. has formally left the E.U.) In a world of corrupt, incompetent leaders, the Antichrist will stand out, first in Europe and then the world, as someone who can (1) bring adversaries together in peace, (2) solve seemingly insoluble problems, and (3) convince the post-rapture world that religion has been the source of their self-destructive problems for centuries, and that utopia will ensue if only they will all cast it aside.
With his reputation as a diplomatic miracle worker growing, he now pulls off the “impossible.” Pushing through (probably in the United Nations) a “covenant with many” (see Daniel 9:27) that promises to bring peace to the Middle East, his popularity peaks. There has been no peace in the region since Israel declared its statehood on May 14, 1948. Since then, it has been repeatedly attacked by Muslim forces who are convinced that Israel has no right to exist. It’s a typical land-for-peace deal, with one exception: it includes a provision for Israel to rebuild their temple on the temple mount—a surprise move that no one saw coming. This is the one thing that could convince the Israelis that the Muslims are serious about peace. For their part, the Muslim nations (led by a charismatic new caliph called the Mahdi) agree to the deal, knowing that according to the Qur’an, treaties with infidels are not binding upon Muslims who sign them.
To everyone’s surprise and delight, the treaty holds—for a year or two, anyway. The temple gets rebuilt, everybody relaxes and drops their guard, and the Antichrist is hailed as the world’s new “prince of peace.” What nobody understands is that the “covenant with many” is the singular event that begins the Tribulation, the last of Daniel’s “seventy weeks,” re-starting the clock that had been “on hold” since Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem back in 33 AD, less than a week before His crucifixion.
From this point onward, things fall apart fairly quickly. Sometime after the temple project is complete, the war of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39) is fought—an all-out Islamic assault on the newly toothless Israel. But Yahweh intervenes, destroying the Muslim armies within the Promised Land with a plethora of miraculous means: a great earthquake, flooding rain and hail, fratricide in the Muslim ranks, pestilence and bloodshed, fire and brimstone. This regional disaster will then escalate to engulf the western world: particularly Russia, Europe, and America. World War III and its inevitable attendant woes will kill one quarter of the world’s populace—some two billion souls—as reported in the first four “Seal” judgments of Revelation. The nuclear component of the war is described in the first “Trumpet” judgment: fire and hail and blood over one third of the earth’s land surface.
Remarkably, the Antichrist will escape unscathed from the carnage. At this point (about three and a half years into the Tribulation) the world will demand a global leader who can bring order out of the chaos, and the Antichrist, with his reputation as a peacemaker somehow still intact, is the logical choice. One theory is that the ignorant masses will mistake World War III for Armageddon, and conclude that the Antichrist must be the promised Messiah.
At this point, the Antichrist will implement his “System-666” financial program, marketed as the perfect solution to crime, anarchy, and lawlessness. The fact that the “oath of loyalty” to the Antichrist’s one-world government implies allegiance to Satan himself will not be seen as a problem to those who have turned their backs on the true and living God. Those who refuse to take the “mark of the beast” (as it’s known in scripture) will be branded outlaws—enemies of the state. Much of the world will comply, but multitudes, having been warned by an angel not to receive the mark (Revelation 14:9-10) will run from the Antichrist’s system. Some will be caught and killed, but others will somehow make it through alive until the end of the Tribulation.
The second half of the Tribulation—the 42 months in which the Antichrist is in charge of planet earth—will be punctuated by plagues designed to demonstrate to the world that their leader is not the “god” he pretends to be. The fifth Trumpet judgment (Revelation 9) describes how demon-locusts plague those not sealed by God for a period of five months: their scorpion-like stings are described as a fate worse than death. Then the sixth Trumpet heralds a two hundred million man army rampaging in the Far East (i.e., the area that wasn’t hit directly in WWIII), killing another two billion people. Between WWIII in the west and WWIV in the east, half of the world’s population will die, and there will be scores of ways to die that have nothing to do with either of these direct causes. The insane secular progressive pipedream of killing off 90% of the world’s human population (in order to “save the planet”) will come within a whisker of reality.
The “Bowl” judgments of Revelation 16 (all of which will take place on the Antichrist’s watch) include “loathsome sores” appearing on those who received the mark of the beast; the death of the oceans; fresh water sources turning to blood; men being scorched, apparently by massive solar flares; darkness and pain in the Antichrist’s kingdom; the drying up of the Euphrates river (a prelude to the battle of Armageddon); and the greatest earthquake ever to visit the planet (which will apparently coincide with Christ’s second coming).
Obviously, there is far more to it. The events of this period of time took me the entire second volume—17 chapters—to cover in The End of the Beginning. This quick “highlights reel” was merely intended to describe what the “fourth kingdom” of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue dream meant. Yes, it’s “Rome,” in the symbolic-prophetic sense, but in the end, it will involve the entire rebellious earth: “The fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.” (Daniel 2:40) “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.” (Daniel 7:7)
Considered together, it becomes hard to differentiate between the fourth kingdom and the Antichrist himself. And when we factor in his characterization in Revelation as “the beast from the sea,” it becomes hard to sort out the Antichrist from the demonic forces that control him: one cannot prosper without the other. The Tribulation will be Satan’s last, best shot at “playing God” in this world, but his mercifully short reign will be an unmitigated disaster at every turn. Pondering Yahweh’s repeated warnings, you’d think that the devil would just give up, but alas, it’s not in his nature.
Isaiah writes, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer [literally, “Day Star”], son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.” (Isaiah 14:12-15) Satanic “visions of grandeur” do not make it so. The nature of Yahweh, the Most High, is pure love. Satan could never be “like the Most High” because his own nature is pride, the antithesis of love.
Lucifer was arguably the “best” spiritual being Yahweh ever created, the one with the most potential for greatness: “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty…. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you. You were on the holy mountain of God. You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned. Therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground.” (Ezekiel 28:12, 14-17) Pride was never supposed to be part of the formula.
How, then, did (or will) Satan meet his end? John explains: “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him….” Good news for heaven, bad news for the earth. “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!’” But for the moment, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” (Revelation 12:7-12)
As strange as it might sound, God is not quite done with Satan yet. He has one last “walk-on” part to play, one last spasm of life for the fourth world empire: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years [i.e., during Christ’s Millennial Kingdom] and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.” (Revelation 20:1-3) Why in the world would God allow the devil out again, even if only for a short time?
It all has to do with free will. Billions of people will be born during the Millennium to its original mortal population—the “sheep” of Matthew 25:31-46). And they, as we do today, will be born with Adam’s sin nature. They will therefore have to choose whom they wish to follow—whom they will trust for their salvation. Christ’s Thousand-Year Kingdom will be a “perfect society,” sort of like a second Garden of Eden. Should we really be so surprised that God would send in the snake again, to make their choices crystal clear? “Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them….” We aren’t told how many (or what percentage of the Millennial population) will fall for this last great deception, but it is enough to warrant mention in scripture. My heart just aches for these people. But I can kind of see the wisdom in God’s method. I am a sinner, saved by grace, living in a fallen world that is collapsing around my ears. So for me, the problem is obvious. But they will be living in “utopia.” And, just as in Eden, the devil will be able to convince some of them that perfection just isn’t enough. Sigh.
At least, this is the last time the dragon will be let out on parole: “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:7-10) Considering how much damage he’s done, “forever and ever” hardly seems long enough.
In case you’ve lost track in all of our historic and prophetic meanderings, our overarching subject here is “Where are you?” What place on earth do you figuratively “identify with,” from a spiritual point of view? We have explored Israel—the Promised Land, and then discussed The Wilderness—the place of preparation that we must go through on our journey toward the Land of Promise. God’s symbolic designation for places other than the Land of Promise is the Sea—the Gentile Nations; a.k.a. the Isles or Coastlands. Among them, Egypt was singled out (for obvious reasons) as a metaphor for Bondage in the World.
Canaan was an instructive subject. Its symbolic meaning is: Living Under the Curse, but geographically, it is coterminous with Israel, the Land of Promise. The lesson is, it’s not the physical location of the place, but its conceptual component of which we need to be cognizant. Today, one could dwell in Jerusalem but actually be in “Egypt,” that is, in bondage. Or, conversely, your home could literally be in Egypt, but as a Christian believer, you could in reality be living in your own “Promised Land,” the center of God’s will for your mortal life, even if there are battles to be fought there and giants in the land.
The most prevalent geographical symbol in scripture is Babylon, indicating Systematic Idolatry. Its usage as such extends from Genesis 11 all the way through Revelation 18. In a fascinating twist, the neo-Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar II was where Yahweh chose to put Judah in “time out” for 70 years for failing to keep His precepts. Before they had even entered the Land of Promise, Moses had warned them, “If you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God… Yahweh will bring you and the king whom you set over you to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods…. “Yahweh will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known—wood and stone. And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there Yahweh will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul.” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 36, 64-65)
So just before Judah was hauled off in chains to Babylon, they protested, “‘What is our sin that we have committed against Yahweh our God?’ Then you [Jeremiah] shall say to them, ‘Because your fathers have forsaken Me,’ says Yahweh; ‘they have walked after other gods and have served them and worshiped them, and have forsaken Me and not kept My law. And you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, each one follows the dictates of his own evil heart, so that no one listens to Me.” Doing “what seemed right in their own eyes” is a strategy that had never worked, because the heart of man is, at its core, desperately wicked. “Therefore I will cast you out of this land into a land that you do not know, neither you nor your fathers; and there you shall serve other gods day and night, where I will not show you favor.’” (Jeremiah 16:10-13) The sad irony is that because they had turned to false gods invented in Babylon, Judah would be incarcerated in—where else?—Babylon. God eventually gives us the desires of our hearts—even if those desires conspire to kill us. Note that Israel’s ten northern tribes had fallen to Assyria in 722 BC, for roughly the same reason. But Assyria was defeated by Babylon in 604, the result of the Battle of Carchemish. So it was in Babylon that Ephraim and Judah were reunited, though they might as well have been total strangers by this time.
As we have seen, the Tanakh also speaks of a whole series of Babylon’s Surrogates and Subsets, arising to power even before Babylon’s “Golden Age” under Nebuchadnezzar. To review, they include Assyria (the home of militant evil), Tyre (representing pride resulting from success and riches), Sidon (the sycophant of Tyre), Philistia (the neighborhood bully), and Tarshish (the facilitator). Each of these national profiles has seen many localized (and temporary) permutations in the intervening centuries. The thing we need to remember is that they’re all, to one extent or another, versions or subgroups of Babylon—the home of systematic, institutionalized idolatry—from whom we were instructed numerous times to flee.
No matter how successful your “country” is, if it is based on the veneration of false gods—idols of man’s own imagination—then we must flee, physically if possible, but certainly in spiritual terms. We are called to be holy, set apart to Yahweh, no matter where we find ourselves living. Note that sometimes, the nature of where you’re living can shift beneath your very feet: my beloved America, for example, is not remotely the same “place” it was when I was young. It somehow became “West Babylon” when we weren’t looking. But I couldn’t flee to another nation if I wanted to: most of them are even further down the road to apostasy than we are. So I must “flee” right here where I am, retreating by keeping my mind fixed on the Word of God.
Another verse to the same “Where are you” song was Nebuchadnezzar’s statue dream, recorded in Daniel 2. A succession of four gentile “world empires” was prophesied to shape the world in which our redemption would be “worked out with fear and trembling” (as Paul phrased it). Beginning with the “head of gold” (Nebuchadnezzar’s golden age in Babylon), it would progress by stages through the kingdom of Medo-Persia (benign power—as least as far as Israel was concerned), Greece (Alexander the Great’s sudden rage), and several permutations of Rome (symbolizing the quest for ultimate world power). The final form of this last kingdom will be the Antichrist’s worldwide domain during the Great Tribulation. The stage is being set for this hellish drama as we speak.
Note that the question here isn’t “When are you?” Or even “How are you?” That is, our external circumstances have very little to do with it. Think conceptually—and personally. Daniel taught us how it works. Though he lived under the rule of Babylon and Persia, his mindset was always that of the fifth and final kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream…
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: PERFECTION UNDER GOD’S RULE
Describing Nebuchadnezzar’s own dream to him, Daniel had said, “You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces….” This “stone” is Yahweh’s Messiah—He is not the product of the will or intent of fallen mankind (like the other four kingdoms), but of God Himself. Notice that this Stone doesn’t directly attack the gentile kingdoms until they’ve reached the very end of their life: at the “iron and clay” stage, the statue’s toes—the Antichrist’s kingdom. And elsewhere in scripture, we learn that the Messiah won’t visit direct, personal wrath on the world until the final five days of the age of the gentiles: the “battle” of Armageddon. Under normal circumstances, the “worst” thing He ever does to us is to leave us alone to sort out our own problems.
That’s not to say that only the Antichrist’s home kingdom will be destroyed, leaving the others intact. No, every vestige of human governance as we’ve known it will crumble in the process, because they’ve all become irredeemably corrupt: “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind [Hebrew: ruach—the same word as “Spirit”] carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:34-35)
Don’t look now, but we have absolutely no frame of reference for this. The direct rule by God Himself over the entire planet has never been seen since we left the Garden of Eden. The reason for this is God’s primary gift to mankind: free will, the privilege of choice—without which, love on a global scale cannot exist. Think about it: love must be voluntary. If love is forced, compelled, or required, it becomes something else—obedience, loyalty, etc. Not bad things, necessarily, but not exactly love, either. Yes, we were commanded in the Torah to “love Yahweh your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments.” (Deuteronomy 30:16; cf. Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:30) But as John pointed out, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19) All God is asking is that we reciprocate the love He has already shown to us. And the most practical way of demonstrating this is to love our fellow man.
The reason love will “work” as a cultural strategy during the Millennial Kingdom of Christ—even though it never really did before—is that (in the beginning, at least) there won’t be a single mortal soul on the face of the earth who hasn’t chosen to positively respond to our Creator’s love. It will be a bit like the time immediately after the flood of Noah, but in that case there were only eight people left alive. This time (as far as I can tell) there will be multiplied millions of new believers remaining after the separation of the sheep from the goats (see Matthew 25). These believing mortals will share the planet with a now-immortal human race, including the “Old Testament” saints, the raptured believers of the church age, and the resurrected Tribulation martyrs. The mortals will be charged with re-populating the decimated planet earth—the rub being that their children, though born during an age of perfect peace, prosperity, and enlightenment, will still have Adam’s sin nature: they will still have to choose whether to follow King Yahshua or reject Him.
So back in Daniel 2, the young prophet was explaining to King Nebuchadnezzar what his dream had meant: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people….” Until now, man has always taken it upon himself to rule over his brothers—something God never authorized. But since he is mortal, he was always faced with figuring out how to transfer power from one generation to the next—and something was always lost in the process, whether virtue, moral strength, or understanding. But as Yahweh had originally set it up, although man was supposed to exercise dominion over His creation, he was not to rule over other people. God Himself was to be the One we’d look toward for answers.
The wilderness wanderings showed us how it was supposed to work: we would have God-appointed leaders and set-apart public servants who were answerable to Him, but it was understood that Yahweh Himself would rule and reign. And in the Messiah’s coming kingdom, since He is immortal (well, in His case, eternal) His rule will not “be left to other people.” Flawed human governance will therefore be rendered obsolete. “It [Christ’s kingdom] shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.” (Daniel 2:44-45) We should not find it shocking that God would find it necessary to demolish the old, flawed system in order to implement the new, perfect one. Remember, the exodus was preceded by ten plagues upon Egypt: there is a price to be paid for holding God’s people in bondage.
You’ll recall that Nebuchadnezzar’s four great gentile kingdoms were discussed again in Daniel’s chapters 7 and 8. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see the transition to God’s perfect kingdom outlined there as well. “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated. His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him….” The “thrones” seem to be a reference to the twenty-four thrones mentioned in Revelation 4:4, representing the redeemed of all past ages of man. The “Ancient of Days” is Yahweh Himself. We’ll learn more about His relationship with Yahshua the Messiah in a moment.
“A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.” (Daniel 7:9-10) I can’t be dogmatic, but the context would seem to indicate that these souls standing before the throne are those about to be judged—mortals still alive at the end of the Tribulation—the “sheep and goats” of Matthew 25:31-46. The number given, one hundred million of them, need not be a precise statistic, but if it is anywhere close, I can only reflect that the Tribulation will have been awfully hard on the citizens of planet earth, who numbered about eight billion souls when it all began. Note also that in Daniel 7, the “Ancient of Days” was seen as judge; while in Matthew 25, the one doing the judging is called “the Son of Man,” that is, the glorified Messiah: as I’ve said until I’m blue in the face, Yahshua is Yahweh.
Speaking of judgment, Daniel now sees the fate of the “beasts,” the leaders of the four world powers—especially that of the Antichrist, he who was known for speaking “pompous words.” “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking. I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. 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 7:11-12) As we saw, the Stone of judgment will strike first on the statue’s toes of iron and clay—that is, God will postpone His wrath until the very end of the age. Only then will the last vestiges of human governance be swept away.
Daniel continues: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14) We know from a hundred Bible texts, some subtle, some blatant, that the Messiah, the “Son of God,” shares Yahweh’s identity, though He is manifested in the form of a man so that we humans might be able to relate to Him. But here in Daniel, we are given a glimpse as to the relationship between Father God and His Son, so to speak. Although He is Yahweh (cloaked in flesh), Yahshua (the Son) is seen here appearing before the Father to receive the everlasting kingdom. Just know that they are not two different Gods: in reality, they are One. As Moses said, “Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4) “One” here is the Hebrew adjective echad, meaning one, alone, united (or unity), or only (in addition to the ordinal “first”). So when Moses later declared, “Yahweh your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Deuteronomy 18:15), he was saying this “Prophet,” though human, would also be “one” with God. Note that the word for “hear” (shama) is the same in both passages: we are to listen to, understand, and heed God’s words, whether “spoken” by Yahweh or Yahshua.
In this world, we’re used to the world’s rulers being the primary beneficiaries of whatever good things their reigns produce. So we’re thrown for a bit of a loop with Daniel’s next observation: “Then [after the destruction of the Antichrist’s reign] the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.” (Daniel 7:27) Yes, God—the Most High—has now (finally) taken charge of planet earth: everyone does what he says. So how can it be that the saints are said to be the recipients of the kingdom? It’s because of Yahweh’s core nature: love. All He wants is to bless us, to share in our happiness (which, after all, is the direct result of His love toward us). As far as I can tell, God’s need to love and be loved in return is the whole reason He created the universe in the first place.
In the next chapter, Daniel covers the same territory: “I was watching; and the same horn [the Antichrist] was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.” (Daniel 8:21-22) This, of course, is a snapshot of the Great Tribulation—the final three and a half years of the age of fallen man. Note who comes to save the day: Again, He is called the “Ancient of Days” here, though we know from other passages that it will be the Messiah-King, Yahshua, the “Word of God” (see Revelation 19:13), who returns to judge the earth. If it wasn’t clear before, it should be now: Yahshua is Yahweh.
It might seem odd that God would allow Satan to prevail against the saints (that is, those who came to faith after the rapture) for a time, but elsewhere in scripture we are informed that “It was granted to [the Antichrist] to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:7-8) It’s going to be really rough for the belatedly redeemed of Laodicea and pre-repentant Israel. But as we’ve seen, the whole point of this trial is the exercise of our free will, and this is the ultimate choice: death masquerading as life, or eternal life looking for all the world like death. But God assures us that some will make it through alive to the end—proving, if nothing else, that Satan and his Antichrist are not God. If they were, they would have succeeded in killing every living thing on the planet, as was their intention. Their hatred for Yahweh has no limit. Fortunately, their competence does.
Most Christians are familiar with the concept of the “rapture,” in which believers will be transformed from their mortal state to that of immortals, sometime before the Tribulation commences. And we are aware of the “sheep” of Matthew 25:31-46, who, as belated believers, will survive the terrors of the Tribulation and repopulate the nations of the earth during Christ’s kingdom age. But what will happen to those neo-believers who were martyred by the Antichrist (or simply died in the mayhem of the times)? John depicts their destiny in Revelation 7, at the end of the “Seal” judgments. A moment ago, I described their life during the Tribulation as “really rough.” And as mortals, it was; but they didn’t stay “dead” for long. As I’ve said before, you can’t really kill a believer; you can only change his address.
John describes the scene: “I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen….’” The “white robes” tell us that their sins are atoned, and the palm branches are symbolic of righteousness. (See my essay in Volume 3 on Palm Trees.) Here they are seen in heaven (in company with the angels and the 24 elders), and praises to God are being sung by all.
But who are they? Where did they come from? “‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Not “lived through it,” but “died in it.” “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.” This is a plum assignment indeed. These folks came late to the party, but once there, they proclaimed their new-found faith without wavering—and were slain for their testimony. Now, clothed in immortal bodies (like the raptured saints before them) they’ll get to serve in the very presence of the King for the next thousand years. Great was their sacrifice: greater still will be their reward. “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat, for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes….’ Life after resurrection is wonderful.
Oddly enough, there doesn’t appear to be any “seventh seal” in the Revelation narrative. But the chapter and verse breaks aren’t there in the original text. Upon reflection, I think we just read about it: the disposition of the martyred multitude is the final seal to be broken: “When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” (Revelation 7:9-17, 8:1) In other words, I think that maybe the first verse of Revelation 18, should have been the last verse of Revelation 17.
Think about it: the fifth seal describes how the earlier Tribulation martyrs asked God, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” To which He replied, “Rest a little while longer, until both the number of [your] fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as [you] were, was completed.” (Revelation 6:10-11) In the Revelation 7 passage we just reviewed, that very thing has been accomplished. But upon breaking the seventh and ultimate seal, the rejoicing that would naturally have marked the end of the disastrous rule of man is paused for a moment of reflection as everyone in heaven ponders the ramifications of what has just happened upon the earth: most of the human race has just made the ultimate bad choice, and God’s wrath has finally come, as we knew it must.
The whole episode is recapped in Revelation 20: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4-6) The bottom line is that the Antichrist’s worldwide kingdom has come to an abrupt and ignominious end, replaced permanently by that of Yahweh’s “Crushing Stone,” as the glorified King Yahshua was presented in Daniel 2.
The silence of the seventh seal won’t last long, for the final trumpet judgment reports: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15) And the last series of judgments listed, the “bowls” or “vials,” simply says, “Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’” (Revelation 16:17) There is no more “silence in heaven” as they contemplate the destiny of the lost. Now all we hear is “loud voices” proclaiming the ultimate good news: Yahweh our God reigns upon the earth!
Following the textual clues, we can pin down the timing of the seventh bowl to a single day. The sixth bowl saw the armies of the Antichrist gathered for battle at Armageddon; now we learn what happens next: “And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.” (Revelation 16:18-21) These awe-inspiring signs will accompany the return of King Yahshua to planet earth. It is the definitive Day of Atonement (October 3, 2033, unless I’m mistaken about a great many things).
This day will witness the repentance of Israel as a nation. It is their last chance—one they will seize with both hands, now that their Messiah walks among them. The prophet Zechariah describes the moment of Israel’s “Great Awakening.” “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10) This “grief” is the central requirement of the Day of Atonement: the Hebrew word is anah, meaning to “afflict one’s soul” in repentance—a natural response to the epiphany that the Messiah you see before you is the same Person as the Christ your fathers had crucified some two thousand years previously. Interestingly, anah also means to answer or respond: it’s not just the grief, the feeling sorry for past mistakes. It’s also a positive response to that horrible realization of your past sins: true repentance. Note too that the passage is in Yahweh’s voice: the “Me” whom they pierced in crucifixion was God Himself, and now, at last, they know it.
The Millennial Kingdom age will begin in only five more days, on the Feast of Tabernacles, Tishri 15 on the Hebrew lunar calendar—October 8, 2033 (a natural Sabbath, as required in the Torah). In between, Christ will single-handedly fight the bloodiest one-sided “battle” in human history against the satanic forces assembled against Israel: Armageddon. And over the next 45 days (see Daniel 12:12 for the timing clues) the “separation of the sheep from the goats” will be taking place, determining the disposition of every mortal human left alive on the planet. In short, the world will experience the shockingly sudden transition from man’s flawed system of governance to the perfect, permanent rule of Yahweh’s Messiah—just as Nebuchadnezzar’s statue dream foresaw it.
The twenty-four elders in heaven (representing the redeemed of the earth) tell us what has happened. “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:17-18) It is, as they say, the first day of the rest of our lives—the culmination of everything the Bible told us we could expect. Good will be rewarded, and evil punished. Ironically, since mankind is fallen and evil by nature, even the “good” will have to come from God: we who choose to revere His name will be counted as righteous, even though “our” righteousness is attributed to us through our belief—our faith and reliance on Him. As Paul put it, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Thank God.
The nature of the Kingdom of God on earth is described by a number of prophets. Here is a sampling: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of Yahweh’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it.” The whole world will finally realize that Jerusalem is “the place where Yahweh our God has chosen to make His name abide.” “Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off….”
One of the blessed outcomes of the King’s judgment during the Millennial age is that nations will no longer “settle their differences” by going to war against each other. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid. For the mouth of Yahweh of hosts has spoken.” (Micah 4:1-4) Freedom from fear will be the order of the day: it will be a time of perfect peace, born of God’s love. Today, I’m afraid, we can’t even imagine what that will be like.
Sprinkled throughout a blistering rant against the sort of wickedness, pride, greed, covetousness, and violence we experience in our world today, the prophet Habakkuk was given glimmers of hope concerning the nature of the Kingdom age: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time. But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it, because it will surely come…. For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea….” As things sit now, the “glory of Yahweh” is a poorly understood concept, even among believers. We have to look hard to see it, and even then, it must be perceived mostly through the eyes of faith. But during the Millennial Kingdom, what was once seen “through a glass, darkly” will be made abundantly clear. As Paul put it, “Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” The reason? “Yahweh is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:2-3, 14, 20)
The prophet Isaiah was shown what the world will look like when it is “filled the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” No one will be looking back on the old world with nostalgia. “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create. For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people. The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying….” Imagine: no more sin, sickness, sadness, or sorrow.
Because there will still be mortals living and procreating during the Kingdom age, death will still be a possibility. But it won’t be like it is in our present world: “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed….” In this world, reaching a hundred years of age is considered a semi-miraculous feat. But in Christ’s kingdom, it will be no big deal—like growing out of puberty.
Another area of contrast between the present world and the Kingdom age is unrestrained prosperity. “They shall build houses and inhabit them. They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit. They shall not plant and another eat. For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble, for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of Yahweh, and their offspring with them….” Imagine being able to live well on what you earn (no matter how humble your profession), without being taxed half to death or robbed blind by inflation, insurance, utility bills—or actual robbers.
Even prayer will be expedited! “It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer, and while they are still speaking, I will hear….” It’s not that God doesn’t always hear us now, but as James says, sometimes we ask amiss—not comprehending what we should pray for, or why. Or we quench or grieve the Holy Spirit through our lack of faith or misbehavior. If we reverse-engineer this promise, it would appear that our (that is, the Millennial mortals’) relationship with the Messiah-King will be unhindered by all the cultural nonsense that gets in the way in this present world.
Even the “natural world” (the animal kingdom) will be transformed: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, says Yahweh.” (Isaiah 65:17-25) I’ll freely admit that I have no idea how this is going to work. But it is clear that perfect peace will extend even to the animals living among us.
The thousand-year Kingdom Age of Christ upon the earth won’t mark the end of our relationship with Him, of course. It is “only” our Sabbath rest, the seventh of seven one-thousand-year “days” that mankind was given in which to make our choices concerning our eternal destinies. Or looking at it another way, the Millennium will be like the “honeymoon” between Christ and His church, a time in which we may become more intimately familiar with our “Bridegroom” than was ever possible before. The best is yet to come. It will, in fact, never end.
After a few last minute “housekeeping details,” like the predicted final rebellion (“Gog and Magog II”—Revelation 20:7-10), the transformation of the believing Millennial mortals by bestowing upon them their new immortal bodies, and the final judgment of the dead at the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), the eternal state will commence. That rolls off the tongue easily enough, but (as usual) we have no frame of reference for it.
In the Tanakh, we were given only mysterious hints about what we’ll experience in the eternal state. Job assures us, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth. And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27) The Psalmists speak of God’s love and care “from everlasting to everlasting” (see Psalm 41:13, 103:17), but it seldom sinks in to our puny brains that although Yahweh is eternal, we too must live forever if we are to enjoy His promised blessings. (Or cursings, for that matter: it works both ways.) “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3) For Yahweh’s people, it’s encouraging, but it’s still a bit vague.
It is not until we have come face to face with Yahweh’s Messiah that the concept of “everlasting life” begins to have any real meaning for us. John the Baptist declared, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36) Note that he said this before Christ had proved His divinity by rising from the dead. You don’t have to know everything about Yahshua to believe in Him, but the fact remains, trusting reliance upon Yahweh’s Messiah—whether before or after the fact—results in eternal life. Belief in Him is, in fact, the very line of demarcation between having life and not having it.
Christ’s apostles speak of the concept of eternal life incessantly, for they had seen the risen Christ with their own eyes: John wrote: “This is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.” (I John 2:25) “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (I John 5:11) “We live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and He is eternal life.” (I John 5:20 NLT) It had become clear that (1) God had promised us everlasting life; (2) He had delivered on that promise by sending Yahshua to atone for our sins; and (3) we can enjoy fellowship with God our Creator because His Son Yahshua—His human manifestation—is eternal life personified. We can live forever because He lives forever.
Paul too spoke of “the truth that leads to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” (Titus 1:1-2) This “hope” (Greek: elpis) is not merely a wish or dream on our part, but confident expectation of something that is certain, even if it hasn’t happened yet. He counseled Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (I Timothy 6:12) Faith, he says, is the key to personally appropriating eternal life—not faith in the fact of such life, but faith in the One who has provided it.
Then, to the Roman believers, he wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Death is something we earn by sinning. And don’t look now, but we’re all sinners—we have all proven that we’ve inherited Adam’s sin nature by choosing to fall short of our Creator’s standards of holiness and behavior—(gasp!) sinning. But there is a way to defeat death: we can accept the gift of life that is offered to us by the only Human in all of human history who never sinned: Yahshua the Messiah. But there’s a “problem” with this gift—in order to have it, we must choose to receive it. The Giver won’t force us to take it. And note that even here, there is faith involved: we all suffer physical death: we’re mortals—our bodies grow old, wear out, and return to dust. But the gift of God is eternal life. We will “live it” in bodies designed and built for the eternal state: immortal, incorruptible, and completely free of sin. If that doesn’t light your fire, your wood’s all wet.
Did Yahshua Himself ever mention this esoteric phenomenon called eternal life? Only every time He turned around. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24) It’s a two-step process: first we must “hear His word” and then we must “believe it.” This explains why Satan works so hard trying to obfuscate what Yahshua said, but it also explains why God’s Holy Spirit Personally dwells within the believers of the church age, teaching us the truth.
Christ wasn’t always straightforward with His teaching, but I think that’s because He wanted us to familiarize ourselves with His symbol vocabulary (which, you may recall, is the subject of this book). So when He said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54), He wasn’t advocating cannibalism. He was teaching us that we must assimilate His very essence into our souls. (And remember, “the life is in the blood.”) The result of this process is that we who do so will “have eternal life.” Again, it’s a two-step process: eternal life is something we have now, even as mortals; but when He raises us up (as He himself arose) at the last day, we will inhabit bodies capable of appreciating what eternal life is all about.
At the Last Supper, Yahshua prayed, “You have given [Me] authority over all flesh, that [I] should give eternal life to as many as You have given [Me]. This is eternal life: that [My disciples] may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ [read: “Yahweh is Salvation: the Anointed One”] whom You have sent.” (John 17:2-3) Did you catch that? (1) Eternal life consists of “knowing” God. (2) We come to know Yahweh through the One He sent—Yahshua the Messiah. (3) We believers are a gift given by Father Yahweh to His Son, Yahshua. So (4) Yahweh has given His Son the authority to bestow eternal life on us believers. This all tends to make the concept of “arranged marriages” come alive, doesn’t it?
Using another metaphor, Yahshua said, “I give [My sheep] eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28) This is true of all believers, of course, but I was recently reminded of how poignant a promise this is to the last group of people who will come to faith: Israel, on the definitive Day of Atonement, near the end of the Tribulation. Isaiah writes, “Behold, the Lord Yahweh shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him.” This is a description of the second coming of Christ. “Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11) Can you imagine the mindset of the Jews who’ve just lived through the Tribulation years? First Gog’s hordes (Ezekiel 38-39) attacked them—only to be utterly decimated by the direct, unmistakable hand of Yahweh. Then the false Messiah (the Antichrist) turned against them, forcing them to flee to the hills (see Matthew 24:15-22). Then, on the Day of Atonement, the real Messiah shows up on the Mount of Olives, revealing Himself to be the same Yahshua their fathers have been vilifying for the past two thousand years. In light of their new spiritual epiphany, these Jews will be a group of timid, terrified sheep. The Good Shepard described in both of these passages will comfort and console them.
Israel will (finally) have learned the truth of what Yahshua said a couple of thousand years previously: “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” (John 12:25 NLT) It’s all a question of the choices we make, of the priorities we embrace: “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30) Verses like these may leave the impression that attaining eternal life is some crass commercial transaction: “If you give God something He wants, He won’t kill you.” Or something like that. The flaw in this logic is that we own nothing that wasn’t a gift from God in the first place: we don’t “have” anything He didn’t give us—up to and including life itself.
So what does God “want” from us? He wants our trust, our reliance, our belief. To that end (and this may sound counterintuitive) He never gives us all the proof we think we might want, for to do so would remove our free will from the equation. Evidence, yes, and in profuse abundance—proof, no. It’s not a business transaction between peers. Rather, He wants us to trust Him the same way a small child trusts his (or her) parents. If daddy (whom we’ve never had reason to doubt) says, “Jump off the jungle gym into my arms: I’ll catch you,” the child doesn’t really calculate the pros and cons of the proposition. Intuitively knowing daddy’s character, love, and strength, he just jumps!
The Torah related a story that puts this situation in perspective. In Numbers 21:6-9, the Israelites had begun to complain (again), and as a result found themselves plagued by poisonous snakes. (In our playground illustration, they had climbed up onto the jungle gym, only to find the bars too hot to hold onto.) So they cried out to Father Yahweh: save us! God told Moses to make a bronze snake and mount it on a pole; when anyone was bitten, if he looked at the serpent in faith, he would live. No “proof” was offered; just the proposition: look in faith and live. Some fifteen hundred years later, Yahshua revealed this to be a prophecy of what would He Himself would soon achieve: our salvation through faith. To Nicodemus, a Pharisee, but an honest searcher nevertheless, He said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [in crucifixion], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:14-16)
Sorting out the symbols, we see that (1) the “pole” upon which Moses lifted up the serpent was prophetic of the cross upon which Christ was crucified. (In a fascinating twist, the stauros, translated “cross,” actually means “an upright stake.” The crosspiece was called, in Latin, the patibulum. This explains why the soon-to-be-released-from-bondage Israelite slaves were instructed to paint both the upright doorposts and the lintels of their dwellings with the blood of the slain Passover lamb.) (2) Moses’ serpent represented sin, a picture that went all the way back to the Garden of Eden. (3) The bronze or copper from which Moses’ snake was made represents judgment. Christ took our judgment upon Himself as He hung on the cross: our sins are paid for.
Note too that the life bestowed upon as we look with faith upon the cross of Christ is everlasting, eternal life. Millions of believers (both before and after the passion) have died—their mortal lives have come to an end. And yet, as Yahshua reminded the Sadducees, Yahweh told Moses, “‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.” (Mark 12:26-27) We too will emulate our Messiah in receiving glorified, immortal bodies—bodies designed and built for eternity, just as our present weak and corrupt mortal bodies were built for life on earth. As Paul put it, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” (I Corinthians 15:51-54) This event—yet future, in case you haven’t noticed—is commonly referred to as the rapture of the church.
Those who participate in the rapture (which, the scriptural clues conspire to inform us, will take place prior to the Tribulation) will live as immortals on earth during the Millennial reign of Christ. If I’m not mistaken, our primary role will be to mentor the Millennial mortals—the “sheep” of Matthew 24, and especially those who will be born to them during the Kingdom age. But compared to eternity, the Millennium will be but a blink of an eye. What follows will be so magnificent, so perfect, God didn’t really give us a comprehensive description, probably because we couldn’t comprehend it anyway. For what He did tell us about the afterlife, about “Heaven, Hell, and Eternity,” see Chapter 30 of my book on prophecy, The End of the Beginning, elsewhere on this website.
I could spend the rest of my life contemplating this: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’” (Revelation 21:1-4) All we know for certain is that our life in Christ will be better than we mortals can possibly imagine, and that it will never end.