The Beast and Babylon (Part Two)

by John W. Ritenbaugh
Forerunner, "Personal," May 2004

As the last article began to show, Europe is not showing signs of the kind of unity and strength one would expect the Beast to have. An interesting news article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard strongly accentuates how divided—and therefore weak—Europe is. His article, "1,000 changes sought in EU constitution," appeared first in the United Kingdom's The Daily Telegraph on February 28, 2003, following a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, the previous day of the Convention on the Future of Europe:

The Convention on the Future of Europe was in a ferment of revolt yesterday as delegates of all stripes assailed the leadership for refusing to listen to the people as they draft the European Union's first constitution.

More than 1,000 amendments poured in demanding changes to the first 16 articles, which were released by the forum's elite praesidium two weeks ago.

It is difficult to imagine a thousand change requests—and that after the first sixteen articles of the proposed constitution had been in existence only two weeks! The British put their finger on the central theme of almost every disagreement:

The British had other concerns. Still fuming over federalist undertones at the convention, Tory and Labour members alike demanded the removal of a clause giving the EU "primacy over the law of member states."

They are most alarmed by the concept of "shared competence" put forward in the text, an innocuous sounding term that would prohibit member states from legislating in everything from public health to social policy, transport, justice and economic management unless Brussels waived its powers first.

The British are upset over the same issue that erupted into the American Civil War: Which is supreme, the Federal government or the individual state governments? Slavery, though a reality, was the emotional flashpoint, but the real struggle was over who controlled what. Who had the right to determine what is right and wrong, which way a thing was to be done, or who was to do what and when? The British are concerned about this very thing regarding the new European Constitution.

David Heathcoat-Amory, a Tory MP on the convention, said the insiders had seized control and were pushing through a constitutional revolution that would leave the British Parliament an empty shell.

"This has now reached a dangerous stage," he said. "What we are looking [at] is a completely different Union, with its own legal personality, endowed with rights by the constitution, not by member states," he said.

Lord Stockton, a pro-European Tory MEP, said the convention had degenerated into a "power grab" by the political class, who had forgotten that the purpose of the forum was to bring Europe back closer to the people after anti-EU referendums in Denmark and Ireland.

Things are not going well in Europe, and they have not been going well for quite some time. The time the Berlin Wall came down marked a high point for European unity, but since then, Europe has backtracked in many areas important to national greatness.

Another report from The Daily Telegraph authored by George Trefgarne, economics editor, touches on the economic dilemma of one of its strongest member states:

Here is a surprising fact: 100 Germans are losing their jobs every hour. Imagine being Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Like a starlet in a Hollywood disaster movie, he is trapped in a car heading over the cliff.

The speedometer just keeps whizzing round as he tries the door and screams for help. He pumps the brake and turns the steering wheel, but to no avail. Last week, the counter hit 4.4 million.

Apart from his own bad driving, who or what can Mr. Schröder blame? His predecessors, the world downturn and the Americans have all come in for criticism. But he may soon find the perfect culprit: the French. For although France and Germany are having a wonderful flirtation over the Iraqi question, they are actually star-crossed lovers. ("France and Germany will soon fall out," March 10, 2003)

Elise Kissling, writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 7, 2003, touches on the same issue in her article titled, "Record Jobless Rolls Shock":

Unexpectedly high unemployment figures for February have prompted calls for immediate action to propel the economy and stimulate job creation.

The jobless rolls jumped to 4.7 million in January from just under 4.3 million last February and up 83,000 from last month, the Federal Statistics Office reported on Thursday. The February figures, the third-highest level since World War II and the highest since unification, caught bank economists off guard.

German companies are hurting. Hugh Eaken writes in Australia's The Age, "Deutsche Telecom has posted a loss of $44 billion (American), the biggest annual loss in European corporate history" ("Deutsche Telekom Posts Europe's Biggest Loss," March 12, 2003). Where is all this heading? Journalists all over the world are beginning to publish their conclusions, which indicate a European economic and political world in its greatest turmoil since World War II.

The following article excerpt, "Germany Plans Two-Tier E.U. over Iraq Splits" by Geoff Meade, derives from The Scotsman:

Germany is reviving plans for a two-tier E.U., leaving Britain and Spain out in the cold in anger over the Iraqi crisis. The "two speed" Europe idea is not new; it has been mulled over in Paris and Berlin every time a policy difference casts Britain against the continental mainstream.

But Britain has repeatedly resisted being left in the European slow lane, and will not welcome any suggestion of a European "hard core" group driven by France and Germany—particularly one seeking to drive a wedge into the E.U. on the basis of policy towards Iraq.

"It looks as if Schroeder is out to reinvent the original founding group of countries—the old six against all those which have joined since," stated the leader of Labor's Euro-MPs, Gary Titley.

The Australian published an article by National Security Editor Patrick Walters, "Strategic alliance system in decay," on March 13, 2003:

The world is witnessing a rapid breakdown of the US-led multilateral alliance system built up since World War II and with it the demise of the UN, according to a leading strategic analyst. "It's a defining moment," argues Francois Heisbourg, chairman of the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, and one of Europe's most respected strategic analysts. "We are witnessing a sea change vis-à-vis everything which has been built up since the Second World War."

Finally, from the February 11, 2003, DEBKAfile comes a four-part conclusion its authors see arising out of this present crisis:

A. The steady disintegration of the United Nations for all practical purposes.

B. The breakdown of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—the strategic pact binding the United States and Europe since World War II.

C. The serious erosion of the European Union as a West European-oriented community, followed by the redistribution of the continent's power centers to the nations supporting the US offensive against Iraq: the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark and the new NATO members of eastern Europe.

D. The race for domination of the Asian-Pacific region among the United States, Russia and China.

Revelation 13:4 says regarding the Beast, "So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, 'Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" The major point to remember from the previous article is that Europe is, at this time, missing the factors of national greatness that would cause it to be feared. In short, Europe is declining. Its trajectory is unlike what one would expect of a great power that other nations tremble before, as they will fear the Beast. In addition, no leader of the Beast's stature has appeared on the world's political, economic, and military scene.

As pictured in verse 1, God uses three fearsome animals, including the so-called "king of beasts," to portray the Beast. Instead, Europe is moribund. It has been steadily waning in world influence for the past decade or more. The nations' economies are shrinking and their populations declining. Even though each nation has it own military, Europe is in fact dependent upon the United States to defend it should all-out war erupt. In reality, there is little in Europe to fear!

The first article suggested two conclusions:

1. If the Beast is indeed to rise in Europe, then either we have much longer to wait until Christ returns, or

2. absolutely miraculous events will have to happen rapidly to turn the tables completely. This would entail bringing down the U.S. while simultaneously raising the EU to the superpower status that other nations fear.

Please note that I have never said the Beast will not arise in Europe.

The last article also provided a brief overview of Nebuchadnezzar's image in Daniel 2, with its head of gold, chest and arms of silver, hips and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay. It also touched on Daniel's dream in chapter 7 of the four beasts, each of which corresponds to one of the four parts of the image of Daniel 2. Historically, the four parts and four beasts are the Chaldean, the Medo-Persian, Greco-Macedonian, and Roman empires. The Beast of Revelation 13 corresponds to the feet of iron and clay of Daniel 2 and the fourth beast of Daniel 7. All of them reveal aspects of the Roman Empire.

A Babylon/Rome Connection?

We need to consider the Babylon/Rome relationship, first in regard to Rome's location and then to what Babylon is biblically.

Concerning the Roman Empire, the church has assumed that its prophetic usage is confined to the basic geography it occupied anciently or during the Middle Ages. But should we make this assumption? There is some possibility we should not do so, and we will see why as we proceed. For instance, consider the image of Daniel 2. Every time the metal changed—from gold to silver to brass to iron—the geographical location of the world power that the metal represented also changed. Why could this not also happen in its final change?

From gold to silver, the geographical location changed from Chaldea in the extreme south of the Tigris/Euphrates River valleys to Medo-Persia in the extreme north of Mesopotamia. From there, it moved to Greece in southeastern Europe and then to Italy in south-central Europe. The history of the resurrected Roman Empire shows that through the ages its boundaries expanded and contracted as its various heads came and went.

Its seat of power was not the same under Justinian as it was under Charlemagne (western Germany), Otto the Great (further east in Germany), the Hapsburgs (Austria), Napoleon (France), or Garibaldi (Italy). In prophecy, geographical location is a generality. Thus, location is not consistent in these fulfillments.

As for Babylon, some do not understand what it is. Biblically, Babylon can be a city or a nation. Though it is sometimes figuratively portrayed as a woman, it is not a church. In prophecy, especially in the New Testament, it symbolizes the worldly system opposed to God. One must discern from the context in which "Babylon" appears which interpretation is intended, but experience shows that Babylon overwhelmingly signifies a nation. Even when it suggests a city, we have to remember that God often uses a city to represent the entire nation.

Moses writes in Genesis 10:8-10:

Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord." And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

Babylon became established as a city through the man, Nimrod. A telling statement showing the attitude and conduct of the founder of this kingdom is "He was a mighty hunter before the Lord." "Before" is a literally correct translation. However, a person standing "before" another can be either neutral, for, or against him. We understand that Nimrod was "before" God as an enemy; he was "against" God. Genesis 11:8-9 helps clarify this:

So the Lord 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 the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

God's scattering the builders shows Nimrod's and therefore Babylon's adversarial attitude toward God. From this beginning, Babylon eventually grew to become a worldwide political, military, economic, and religious system bearing the basic attitude as its founder. It can be a nation or a system that is against the Lord. "Babylon" thus became the Bible's code word for what the New Testament writers call "the world." They use the Greek term cosmos, implying an organized worldwide system opposed to God.

At the time of Genesis 11, the people scattered from the Tigris-Euphrates valley, taking much of the antagonism to God's ways with them. To some degree, each language group adapted the attitude and system of Babylon to their ethnic traits. Undoubtedly, each group altered it somewhat, but secular evidence reveals a common strain connecting all civilizations worldwide to Mesopotamia. It took centuries for the people to migrate and settle in their new lands, but occur it did.

Not Everyone Migrated

Some remained in Babylon and through the centuries became the Babylonian nation, dominated by the Chaldeans. Babylon was the name of their capital city. One of their great early kings was Hammurabi, but Nebuchadnezzar became Babylon's greatest king. God gave him the dream of a great image, and Daniel later told Nebuchadnezzar that he represented the head of gold (Daniel 2:38).

The other portions of the image represented powerful kingdoms—Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome—that, through the centuries, would follow Babylon in dominating the Western world. They did not dominate the entire world but perhaps could have. They certainly dominated the part of the world the Bible is concerned with—the portion the Israelitish descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived in. Nevertheless, because the head represents Babylon, and the head directs the entire body, we can safely assume that this image confirms the continuation of the same general Babylonish system right on down to its end represented by the feet and toes.

Geographically, this interpretation of the image places the Babylonish system firmly in what media personalities, political figures, geographers, and anthropologists widely call the "West." What is included in this term? We shall see.

Other vast Migrations Occurred

Just as the dominating power systems eventually geographically migrated from Babylon to Rome, so other massive, ethnic migrations also occurred. II Kings 17:6, 18 states:

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. . . . Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone.

Assyria defeated Israel and relocated its people to Media more than a hundred years before the nation of Babylon arose to full strength. Then, in tandem with the Assyrians, they migrated, eventually settling in central and northwest Europe. They began settling there long before Rome rose to power to continue the Babylonish system.

Another migration began when the Babylonians subjugated the Jews, beginning about 604 bc, taking many of them to Babylon as captives. II Chronicles 36:17, 20 adds detail:

Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, on the aged or the weak; He gave them all into his hand. . . . And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia.

Beginning about seventy years later, a small remnant of Jews began to return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel and later under Ezra and Nehemiah, but the great bulk of Jews remained in Babylon. Over the centuries, their descendants eventually migrated elsewhere, and many of them ended up in Russia and Eastern Europe.

In a paper published in the 1970s, Ernest Martin (former Worldwide Church of God minister and Ambassador College faculty member) established that the Chaldeans migrated first from Babylon to Tyre, but when Alexander the Great destroyed Tyre and Sidon, they migrated into Italy, eventually making up a large portion of Italy's population.

Notice how Babylon's influence spread into the Western world in much more concentrated doses than the original migration at the confusion of languages. It directly affected the Israelitish people as they simultaneously carried and disseminated it through their migrations.

The New Testament's concept of Babylon is of a worldwide system. It began in the Tigris/Euphrates Valley, but it did not remain there. The Roman Empire was a dominant power within that anti-God system, and because of the migrations of ethnic groups it ruled over, the entire Mediterranean area and much of Europe, including the British Isles, became enveloped by this Roman/Babylonish system.

Rome Dominates Israelite Culture

Perhaps even more interesting is that almost all the people who inhabit the northern and western parts of the Roman Empire are Semitic. Israel, the Assyrians, and the Chaldeans are all descended from Shem: Israel from Shem's son, Arphaxad, through his descendant, Eber, and later Abraham; Assyria from another son, Asshur; and Chaldea also from Arphaxad but through another line.

Let us take this one step further. From where did the peoples who colonized Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and the United States begin their colonization? Semitic Israelitish people from northwest Europe colonized every one of them. The first and the majority of the colonists came from within the vast area of the Roman Empire, and in the same manner that the people from Nimrod's domain took the Babylonish anti-God system with them, the colonists from Northwest Europe carried with them much of Rome's Babylonian culture—but with their own Israelitish, semi-biblical twist to it. English, Dutch, French, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Belgians, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, and Germans colonized first. It was not until later, after the colonies were well established with Semitic peoples, that large numbers of immigrants from Eastern Europe came to the Israelitish colonies.

The Bible clearly reveals Babylon to be a worldwide entity. For the past two thousand years, the history of the Israelitish people has been culturally dominated by Rome's Babylonish system because they have been geographically within its borders and, more importantly, under its religious, economic, military, and political influence. Even though the Bible does not directly present Rome as being as geographically massive as Babylon, it is nonetheless culturally dominant on a worldwide basis because of the migrations and influence of the Israelitish people.

The dominant religions in all Israelitish areas are Roman Catholicism and its Protestant daughters. They all have a form of government based on Roman republicanism. Why, then, should we think the Beast must be geographically confined to Europe if Israelites have carried its influence everywhere they have traveled? Remember, too, that the Bible shows the geographic location of the dominant powers consistently changing. The West consists of all those countries that are predominantly Semitic ethnically, Roman Catholic and Protestant religiously, and representative governmentally. This, then, could include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States within the final Beast's sphere.

At present Europe is weak. It has no united army. The nations' economies are pathetically weak as is their current political and cultural influence. They are suspicious of each other and therefore very divided, even though their leaders are trying to unite them into a common market. They hate it, but they are dependent upon the United States economically and militarily.

If this is indeed the end time, and the Beast arises in and is confined to Europe, then—unless something truly unusual, even miraculous, happens to completely reverse America's and Europe's present conditions—we have a long time before Christ's return. Presently, however, the U.S. is acting much as we thought the Beast would. This, of course, does not mean America is the Beast of Revelation, but only that it is acting in that manner. It is the world's only military superpower, and it dominates the world economically, culturally, and politically. This makes no judgment regarding the quality of its domination, only that it is a reality.

The world has never seen one nation so dominant in all these critical areas. Not even Rome at the height of its power was as dominant. Even though other nations are envious of what God has given America, and some seem to hate it vehemently, they nonetheless eventually give it their grudging support. An example is the issue of Iraq. European nations are resisting the U.S. for a variety reasons, perhaps most of all because they see their way of life, national interests, and influence on other nations severely threatened by a colossus they fear. They know they cannot control America, but they are nonetheless trying to do so because they feel that the towering and overpowering influence of the United States threatens their political and economic ideals.

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer addressed "American Unilateralism" at a dinner sponsored by Hillsdale College on December 4, 2002, in the nation's capital:

At the end of the Cold War, the conventional wisdom was that with the demise of the Soviet Empire, the bipolarity of the second half of the 20th century would yield to a multi-polar world. You might recall the school of thought led by historian Paul Kennedy, who said that America was already in decline, suffering from imperial overstretch. There was also the Asian enthusiasm, made popular by James Fallows and others, whose thinking was best captured by the late-1980s witticism: "The United States and Russia decided to hold a cold war. Who won? Japan."

Well, they were wrong, and ironically no one has put it better than Paul Kennedy himself, in a classic recantation emphasizing America's power: "Nothing has ever existed like this disparity of power, nothing. Charlemagne's empire was merely Western European in its reach. The Roman Empire stretched farther afield, but there was another great empire in Persia and a larger one in China. There is therefore, no comparison."

We tend not to see or understand the historical uniqueness of this situation. Even at its height, Britain could always be seriously challenged by the next greatest powers. It had a smaller army than the land powers of Europe, and its navy was equaled by the next two navies combined. Today, the American military exceeds in spending the next twenty countries combined. Its Navy, Air Force and space power are unrivaled. Its dominance extends as well to every other aspect of international life—not only military, but economic, technological, diplomatic, cultural, even linguistic, with a myriad of countries trying to fend off the inexorable march of MTV English. . . .

So we bestride the world like a colossus.

Journalists are awake to the fact that the stakes in what is happening with Iraq are exceedingly great. Iraq's threat is not military but geopolitical and economic—and to the whole world, not just to Europe, Israel, and America. We may be seeing the first major, visible steps to fulfill the prophecies of the Euphrates River drying up and the armies of the great, populous powers of the East marching westward toward Jerusalem.

The Church Is Worldwide Too

Might it not have been a coincidence that the church we came out of was called the Worldwide Church of God? In one sense, God's church was planted and took root in His calling of Abraham, to whom He made the promises. By and large, Abraham's descendents were confined to Canaan until Joseph was sold into slavery and famine drove Jacob and his family of seventy-five into Egypt.

There they prospered and grew to a couple of million people, but they eventually became slaves of the Egyptians. Under Moses, God released them from their slavery, and after a forty-year trek, Israel returned to the Promised Land—Canaan. Once there, another 400 years passed until they were united as a nation under David.

In the same location about a thousand years later, Christ was born, and to those in that New Jersey-sized area He preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God. After His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, the Holy Spirit was sent from heaven, and the church of God was born in Jerusalem.

By that time, over 1,800 years had passed since the birth of Abraham and around 4,000 years since the creation of Adam and Eve, and God's spiritual purpose was still confined to a tiny area of the earth. However, that changed dramatically once God gave Peter the vision of the unclean animals and sent Cornelius, a Gentile, to seek him out. God was opening a door to the conversion of the Gentiles, the other nations of His creation besides Israel. In a few years, before the conclusion of the first century and the death of the apostle John, the church had expanded all around the Mediterranean Sea and had leaped into northwest Europe as far as the British Isles.

The church, like Babylon and the Roman Empire, was becoming a worldwide entity. This was achieved long before the twentieth century. It never had influence like either of those two, but a corrupted version of it, created by combining some of its tenets with outright paganism from the Babylonian system, did become very influential worldwide. The corrupted version's greatest influence has historically existed primarily in the Semitic, Israelitish nations. The true version is primarily located in the United States although small numbers of its members are also scattered in the other Israelitish nations, Germany, some Latin American nations, and the Philippines.

In summary, five entities are the focus of prophecy at the time of the end: the true church, the false church, the Israelitish people, the Beast, and Babylon. All possess some measure of worldwide influence. None of them is contained solely within the place of its origin.

Summary of the Five Entities

Israel: It began as a small nation confined to the area of Canaan, but because of God's faithfulness in fulfilling His promises to Abraham, Israel has grown to become the most powerful group of nations the world has ever beheld. Though not completely united, they hold a great deal in common. Its dominant nations are of the families of Joseph, Reuben, and Judah. God's relationship to national Israel was altered by a divorce, but He has made clear that, despite Israel's whoredom, His faithfulness to His promises remains unbroken. He will move to rescue Israel from their stubborn blindness.

The True Church: When begun by God, it became the spiritual Israel of God (Galatians 6:15-16), showing that this Israel, not the physical nation, was His focus. His spiritual purpose moved ahead. However, at the end, the church is influentially weak, scattered, and without an administrative headquarters.

Babylon: This entity is no longer a secular nation but, in one sense, is like the church, a spiritual entity. It has no physical place specifically designated in the Bible as its headquarters, but as we shall see in Revelation 17, it has a geographic focus, a place where it reaches the height of its influence. Perceived spiritually, it exists in all nations, and in that sense it is the entire world. It is the worldwide, anti-God system called "the world."

The Beast: Rome was the administrative center of the Roman Empire when it was at its peak of influence, and it is also headquarters of the world's largest religious organization. In the Bible, Rome is never directly mentioned as anything more than a city where church brethren are located. However, its operations and influence in secular history are significant, and geographically it seems to be the most likely administrative center of the coming Beast.

The False Church: Begun a few short years following the birth of the true church, the counterfeit church has far exceeded the true church in its influence worldwide. Like Europe, it is in disarray, fractured by division, badly bruised by blatant immorality, and led by men of liberal bent who have tolerated and even seemingly promoted conduct clearly condemned in the Bible.

The stage is worldwide in scope, and the major players are moving into position. The roles to be played are clear, but the specific personalities who will play the leads have not yet been revealed. Stay tuned.

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