WHAT Kingdoms form the wild beast of the Apocalypse? We have already found out that the woman which it supports is none other than the apostate nation of Israel. We are pleased to note that many students of the Scriptures are coming to acknowledge that the star crowned woman of the twelfth chapter is Israel - faithful Israel. It is but one step further to the logical conclusion that the unfaithful woman is Israel as well - the apostates of the nation.
Furthermore, by referring to the seventh of Daniel, where the wild beast is seen in process of formation, and its separate components are still distinct from one another, we found that the ten-horned monster will be a western military confederacy. It will be a union of the nations of Christendom, while the lion, the leopard and the bear are eastern kingdoms. The question now remains, What eastern kingdoms are represented by these beasts, and what is the principle which distinguishes them one from another?
THE KEY TO THE APOCALYPSE
Before seeking the solution of this seeming enigma, we wish to direct the attention to the divine divisions of the Apocalypse. In all our studies of Christ's Unveiling nothing has wielded such fruitful results as the recognition of the fact that the various sections of the book deal with the separate glories of Christ. They do not confuse them. The accompanying brief framework contains the key to this marvelous book and will well repay all the study which can be given to it.
The two main sections deal with the throne (4:1-11:18) and the temple (11:19-20:15). One portrays Israel's political recovery; the other her religious redemption. One deals with rule, the other with religion. In one Christ is anointed King, in the other He fulfills priestly functions. In the former all is based on a vision of the throne; in the latter everything is founded on the covenant and the testimony which are seen in the sanctuary.
In connection with the throne the false messiah appears as a conqueror riding on a white horse. In the temple section he is one of the heads of the wild beast. Let us note particularly that this beast does not seek dominion merely but demands worship. Unlike a king or a conqueror, it has a prophet who calls upon all mankind to offer it divine honors. It is obsessed by the dragon. As the Man of Sin he takes a place in the temple of God showing himself that he is God (2 Thess.2:4).
Let us not miss this most important point: The beast figures a religious hierarchy. We do not deny that it is composed of kingdoms in the political sense, but these must be viewed as essentially religious units. For instance, if the ten-horned monster is a military league of ten western nations, what would that be but the union of Christendom? The essential basis of such a federation, though unrecognized and not acknowledged, would be the difference in religion between the Occident and the Orient.
Here we have a clue which ought to lead us to a definite conclusion. If it is a question of religions, and these are represented by the beasts, we ought to find that there are three great religions in the East and one in the West. And is not this in exact accord with the facts? The accompanying diagram shows the religions of the world, the approximate number of adherents, and the location of each.
|THE CHIEF RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD |
|Christians ||Buddhists ||Brahmans ||Mohammedans |
|1,900,000,000 ||324,000,000 ||781,000,000 ||1,100,000,000 |
|Europe and |
|China and |
|Turkey and |
|Others, 39,100,000 ||Hebrews, 14,000,000 |
The four great religions of today are Christianity, Buddhism, Brahmanism and Islamism. Besides this there is a comparatively negligible number of minor beliefs, including fourteen million Jews. Christendom includes about 1,900,000,000 adherents, Buddhism 324,000,000, Brahmanism 781,000,000 and Islam, or Mohammedanism, 1,120,000,000. Islam includes Turkey and the adjacent nations, Brahmanism prevails in India, and Buddhism unites Japan and China.
The final conflict of the age will not be a mere campaign for the suzerainty of the land of Palestine; it will be a death struggle between the religions of the world and the one religion which is of God. It will be a holy war against the Jews who alone worship the true God, and refuse to worship the wild beast.
The various beasts in the seventh of Daniel are called kingdoms. The seventeenth verse which calls them "kings" is probably a corruption. The Chaldee word for "kings" and that for "kingdoms," in the absolute plural, are so nearly alike that they could easily be mistaken for each other. The slightest additional stroke to one letter alters "kingdoms" into "kings." Moreover, the Septuagint reads "kingdoms." The fourth beast is repeatedly called a kingdom and it includes ten kings.
If then, these are kingdoms, what relation do they sustain to the temple and to Israel as the priest nation? In ancient times religion was a matter of state. Nebuchadnezzar was neither the first nor the last to demand religious as well as political submission. As the wild beast, or its head, the anti-christ of the future will demand more than political fealty. He will have the worship of all mankind. His image will be the object of divine honors far above that accorded the most exalted potentate.
The clash between Israel and the nations at the time of the end will arise out of their refusal to worship the image, rather than a breach of political faith. All of this leads us to the conclusion that the beasts of Daniel and the composite beast of Revelation are kingdoms in which religion is directly or indirectly a matter of state. This will give us a clear clue as to the probable alignment of the nations at the time of the end.
Let us suppose that the kingdoms of today should segregate themselves according to their religious beliefs. Would they correspond at all with the vision of Daniel? The remarkable parallel which this suggests leads us to wonder that it has never been noted before. Divide the nations according to the great religions and they naturally fall into four groups corresponding to the four beasts which Daniel saw in his vision.
Let us not be misunderstood to teach that the beasts of Daniel are not kingdoms, for such they are. But, even as it was in Nebuchadnezzar's day, religion will be the object of rule. We look for a grouping of the kingdoms at the end time along the lines of the great world religions. Just as Christendom will organize in the west, so will each of the other three creeds organize in the east.
After all, what is more to be expected than for the dragon to marshal his forces in this manner? He would be willing to give the sovereignty of the world to our Lord Himself if He would only bow down and worship him. The highest human dignity will not satisfy him. He and his dupe will usurp the place of God, and here is where they clash with the few who are faithful to Yahweh. Politically the faithful remnant will serve him, but religiously - never!
One deduction from this line of reasoning seems to be reasonably certain. The confederacy of western nations will, for all practical purposes, include what may best be termed Christendom.
Corresponding to this there will be a drawing together on the part of the other religions so that each will have a head of its own. One, indeed, will have four heads, a circumstance which could hardly be true of one nation. It seems rather a community of four nations with a common religion to bind them together, as the western federation will be composed of ten kingdoms with a common creed.
From all this it will appear that, at the end time, after the conquest of the east by the west, all of earth's religions will do homage to the Man of Sin except a handful of Jews. Hence the entire religious world will organize a holy war to exterminate the feeble few who are true to Yahweh.
With the light we have thus acquired let us turn once more to the scarlet woman on the scarlet beast. That the figure of unfaithfulness has to do with Israel's relations to Yahweh no one can well deny. It consists in going after the gods of the nations instead of remaining true to Yahweh. The appalling apostasy of Israel is flashed upon our hearts the moment we apprehend that the beast is nothing less than the religious federation of the world formed by Satan to blot out God's name from the earth. This is her support! This is her boast!
To make this merely a political alliance robs it of most of its heinous offensiveness. In its heart the beast hates the name and the people of Yahweh even when they apostatize. Yet they dally with His enemies and delight in their support and luxuriate in their gifts. The sorest of all the judgments fall upon her.
The nation which should spread the savor of Yahweh's name among the other nations finds wealth and luxury and power and dominion by pandering to the federation of all the false religions on the earth! To receive support from the political opponents of Yahweh would be traitorous; to enjoy the favor and flattery of all the false faiths which Satan has foisted on fallen humanity is tenfold more treacherous.
If we had no other ministry but this - to warn His beloved saints against the great delusion which is rapidly growing and which threatens to seduce them - this alone were worthy of all our efforts.
Satan is mobilizing his forces for the last great stand against our God and against His Christ. Christendom is supposed to be on the side of God and invincible against the attacks of Satan. But, alas! it is Christendom which will be Satan's most effective tool to accomplish his purpose. After confederating its forces and using its sword to convert the whole world to his gospel, he uses Christendom to drive out Christ and God and to compel all mankind to worship him.
How many of God's dear saints see the true object of the great political movements which loom just ahead? The churches will rejoice at the prospect of peace and a confederation to enforce it so that there will be no more war. They do not know that "there shall be wars and rumors of wars" until He shall come who alone can give true peace. They will not know that the confederation to enforce peace is in reality a confederation to enforce worship. They will not know that it is the strong delusion against which we have been warned. The great lie of the end time is sure to deceive all who do not know Christ and the power of His presence. Every promise of blessing apart from Him is the spirit of the antichrist which has always been with us, but which is rapidly coming to its culmination in the antichrist, the great head, not merely of the political world but the object of the whole world's worship as well.
The true meaning of anti-christ is not against Christ but instead of Christ. Satan will not show his true colors but will propose to perform what Christ has only promised. Yahweh has promised peace but not until the Prince of Peace has come and won His war against the hosts of Satan. The dragon promises peace apart from God, without waiting His time, but his very peace is a declaration of war against God.
The teaching that the wild beast of the end time is the revived Roman empire is being effectually used to blind Bible students to its real character. It not only limits it to a very small part of the earth's peoples, when we are told that its authority will extend over "every tribe and people and language and nation" (Rev.13:7), but it fails utterly to account for the fact that "all who are dwelling on the earth will be worshipping it" (Rev.13:8).
Shall we not warn our fellow saints against this seductive delusion? And shall we not charge our own hearts to look for nothing but Christ? Let us spurn every blessing that comes from any other source. Let us be assured that He alone is able to satisfy the world's hunger and heal its mortal wound.