Revived Roman Empire, Or Revived Caliphate?
By Phil Mayo
The recent Brexit vote (Britain leaving the EU) has seen an avalanche of opinions on what prophetic outcome this is leading to. Islamic Caliphate supporters say it is the demise of the EU. So no revival of Rome. But Revived Roman Empire supporters say this could lead to the prophetic fulfilment of Rev 17:12 with a 10 nation EU.
Obviously both sides believe they have scriptural justification for their opinions. So rather than argue over whose opinion is correct, it might be time to take a look at the scriptures again.
One of our best Bible teachers of recent years – Jack Kelley, made this observation:
Rev. 17:11 makes it clear that the beast (anti-Christ) is a king and not a kingdom. We know this because the Greek word for king is in the masculine gender, while kingdom is a feminine word. John has just said the seven heads are seven kings. This eighth king is not specifically identified with any of the seven, but in his goals and ambitions he will be like all of them. This could be a hint that the anti-Christ will not have previously held a leadership position in world government, and may even come from outside the world’s political structure. (Gracethrufaith)
Those familiar with the book of Revelation will no doubt have pondered the various ideas put forward by eschatologists regarding the correct interpretation of Revelation 17:10
And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
Most of those I’ve seen interpret this to refer to seven kingdoms that have influence over the Jewish people, dating backward from the prophesied final Antichrist kingdom to Egypt.
In the case of the Islamic Antichrist theory, it is fundamental to the entire proposition. Those heads or mountains must represent kingdoms, because the final kingdom is a Caliphate.
But there’s a major problem with that. And it’s not just about interpretation, which we can argue over and never reach agreement.
It’s about translation.
The original Greek language of Revelation has a word for ‘king’ – βασιλεύς, έως, . It’s a masculine noun. (Greek has masculine and feminine, like French) It’s pronounced bas-il-yooce.
Greek also has a word for ‘kingdom’ – βασιλεία, ας, . It’s a feminine noun, pronounced bas-il-i’-ah.
In Revelation 17:10 the masculine noun (βασιλεύς, έως) is used.
And do you know what? Our God, who gave the Revelation to John, is an expert on Greek grammar.
So I’m sure you will agree that there wouldn’t be any misunderstanding of what Jesus was saying on John’s part. And Jesus wouldn’t say βασιλεύς, έως, if He meant βασιλεία, ας, . Therefore we must accept the fact that kings, not kingdoms are intended.
By the way, the definition is generally king or ruler. But in some passages, and I believe definitely in the case of Rev 17:10, it is ’emperor‘.
Some will argue that verse 17:9 says the seven heads represent seven mountains. And mountains are sometimes allegorical representations of kingdoms/governments in the Old Testament.
That is true. But where else do we see the Lord using a double layered allegory: heads means mountains means kingdoms?
We don’t. This is an invented interpretive rule, that has no biblical precedent or justification. The Greek word is ρος, ους, τό (oros). Which means mountains/hills, nothing else!
Jack Kelley notes the disagreement:
The traditional view of this passage is that it refers to Rome, known around the world as the City on Seven Hills. But some believe this is not true to the Greek rendering of Rev. 17:9 which actually speaks of seven mountains. The Greek word for hills is different and only appears twice in the New Testament, both in Luke’s gospel. You can see the difference in Luke 23:30 where both oros, the word for mountain, and bounos, the word for hill, are used in the same sentence. If John was using the word mountain symbolically, they say, he would be speaking of governments not topographical elevations. This would have the woman seated atop seven governments. But since the word for mountain is used in the illustration of the city on a hill (Matt. 5:14) and in describing the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:30), others say the translation of Rev. 17:9 as seven hills is appropriate. (Grecethrufaith)
Even if precedent allowed us to apply a double layered allegory: heads means mountains means governments interpretation to the passage. It would only mean it is speaking of the governments of seven kings, because those heads are all on the body of the same beast/kingdom.
And the Greek word translated ‘head’ is κεφαλή, ς, (kephalé). Which according to Strong’s Concordance, means (a) the head, (b) met: a corner stone, uniting two walls; head, ruler, lord.
So we see there is really no justification for interpreting the seven heads to mean anything more than mountains/hills and kings. After all, Rev 17:9 onward; was given by the angel as the interpretation of what John saw. Why do some think they have the right to add any further interpretation to it?
The references to mountains/hills and kings is more likely intended to have the secondary effect of reminding us of the city of Rome, that sits on seven hills, and its legendary seven kings.
There is another point that should be considered. Rev 4:1 records John being told “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place hereafter”. That statement means Rev 17’s beast is depicting something that must happen some time future to John’s situation on the Isle of Patmos. So it can’t be speaking of past or present kingdoms.
There is more scripture that also needs to be looked at again.
There was a debate going on in the 18th century concerning the identification of the Daniel 7 beasts. The argument that won the day, gave us the popular interpretation of Babylon, followed by Medo-Persia, Greece, then Rome. Those who disagreed pointed to Dan 7:17 saying the phrase “shall arise” is future tense. So it couldn’t be speaking of Babylon. But look at the argument that won.
Taken from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:
Nor is it any material objection that the first of these kingdoms, the Babylonian, was risen already, and almost at an end; since the denomination is taken from the larger number; three of them were to arise, and the first was of the same original with them; thus it is said, Daniel 11:2, that three kings of Persia should stand up, and yet Cyrus, who was one of them, reigned already.
Was Gill’s argument correct? Was he justified in ignoring the rules of grammar? Below is an account of the succession of Persian rulers beginning with Cyrus. We can clearly see the “three more kings in Persia, and the fourth” that are predicted in Daniel 11:2. Cyrus was not one of them!
Daniel chapter eleven begins in the court of Cyrus the Great. Under his leadership the Persian Empire expanded to include most of Southwest and Central Asia, from the Hellespont and Egypt in the west to the Indus River in the east, creating the largest world empire seen up to that time.
His son, Cambyses II, expanded the empire into Egypt, and was succeeded for a few months by his younger brother Bardiya.
Darius I later tried to expand the empire into Greece. His first attempt failed. He began planning a second expedition, but died before he could mount it, leaving the task to his son Xerxes I.
This Xerxes I was the fourth king after Cyrus. It is this Xerxes who is named in the book of Esther as Ahasuerus. The name Ahasuerus is equivalent to the Greek name Xerxes, both derived from the old Persian language Xšayārša.
There is some dispute over whether or not it was Bardiya who ascended the throne for those few months. One version of events has it that Bardiya died before becoming king, and an impostor by the name of Gaumata or Smirdis took his place. But even if it was an impostor on the throne of Persia, that still equates to a total of four kings after Cyrus the Great.
Gill’s ability to see the truth was hampered by the lack of archaeological evidence back in his day. But notice the fact that he didn’t try to argue that the original language should not be understood to be future tense.
More recently there has been a revival of the debate concerning Dan 7:17. Some on the side of the Islamic Caliphate are claiming that it should not be interpreted as future tense. Do you want to know why Gill didn’t try to make that argument? It was because as a real scholar who walked the halls of learning, he new his peers would have laughed him off the campus.
I know that many will argue that Dan 7:6 leopard is a metaphorical representation of Greece. But that would mean God is using two completely different beasts to represent the same kingdom in the linked visions of Dan 7:6 and Dan 8:5
Why do I say those visions are linked? In chapter 8:26 the angel Gabriel links the chapter 7 vision with that of chapter 8 when he says: “And the vision of the evening and morning that was told is true.” Chapter seven being the evening vision, and chapter eight, the morning vision.
Some Bible translators have allowed their preconceived ideas to influence their translation of what the angel said in chapter 8:26. They have changed the words “evening and morning” to a plural “evenings and mornings” in order to limit his explanation to dealing with only Dan 8:13-14. But if we look to Strong’s Concordance, we see the words ‘e·reb and bō·qer are used, which in every other occurrence are translated ‘evening and morning’.
What the angel is explaining to Daniel from verse 16 onward is clearly the meaning of the whole vision that Daniel tells us in verse one; is the second given to him after that recorded in chapter seven.
Dan 8:13-14 isn’t a separate and distinct vision. It’s part of the whole vision that makes up most of chapter 8.
Those mistranslations and misinterpretations have given ground on which the Islamic Antichrist theory has been built. And those who argue against that theory, often do so armed with nothing more than a different opinion on how to apply mutually agreed on error.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t correct error with error. Time to think Berean style!
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