How can we know that Christ’s return is near? (Part 8)
When the end-time beast arises and comes to power, then an influential religious leader will accompany and collaborate with him. He is called the “false prophet” in the Bible (Revelation 19:20). We know that Christ’s return is near when these two leaders manifest themselves on the world scene.
We saw already that the false prophet will arise within the religious Babylonian mystery system.
He is also referred to as someone who claims to be “God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4); the “lawless one” (2 Thessalonians 2:8); and the “prince of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:1-10). The religion which he represents is described as “the great harlot” (Revelation 17:1); “the mother of harlots” (Revelation 17:5); and “that great and mighty city” (Revelation 17:18; 18:10).
This city is built on seven hills (Revelation 17:9; compare the New English Bible; the Revised English Bible; the New International Version; the New American Bible; the Moffat Translation of the Bible; the Jewish New Testament, by David Stern; the New Jerusalem Bible; the Living Bible; and German Bibles such as Die Gute Nachricht and Hoffnung fuer alle).
It is the almost unanimous conclusion of biblical commentaries that the city is Rome. Indeed, any honest evaluation of Revelation 17:9 must admit that John is describing, in prophetic terms, an end-time religious system, which is centered in the seven-hilled city of papal Rome, influencing and dominating the peoples of this world.
Zechariah 5:5-11 contains another reference to the end-time religious system and its ultimate demise, describing it as “the woman in the basket.” The time will come when Jesus Christ will make an end to the woman’s wickedness. God WILL remember modern Babylon’s iniquities (Revelation 18:5). We read that God will judge “the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He [will avenge] on her the blood of His servants shed by her” (Revelation 19:2).
We also read in Revelation 18:23 that by the woman’s “sorcery all the nations were deceived.” The implication is that the representatives of that religious system are engaging in sorcery in its different forms and applications. We read that the end-time false prophet, arising out of the religious Babylonian system, will be a powerful sorcerer who will apply magical “arts” and who will work lying signs and wonders with the help of Satan the Devil, with which he will be deceiving the masses.
The final false prophet had several historical forerunners. The most famous one was perhaps the sorcerer Simon Magus who, as we saw, re-established the ancient Babylonian system at the time of the early apostles by giving it a “Christian mantle.”
Another famous sorcerer was Pope Silvester II, who lived at the end of the first century. It is said that he regularly conversed with the Devil, possessed a “brazen head” that spoke to him, and that he could prophesy future events. Pope John XII, who became Pope in 955 A.D. and who in 962 A.D crowned Otto I as the “Holy Roman Emperor of the German Nation,” was also an extremely sinful person. In addition to the myriads of horrible sexual sins and murders, which he committed, he was an addicted gambler; and during gambling sessions, he called on pagan gods or goddesses to grant him luck when rolling the dice.
Other popes who, because of their immorality, were described as “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest” or who claimed to be a god, were, respectively, Benedict IX, who was born in 1012; and Pope Alexander who was crowned in 1492.
As we saw already, the false prophet will even sit in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, declaring to BE God. The Ryrie Study Bible comments that he “will desecrate the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem by placing himself there to be worshipped. This will be the climax of man’s great sin of self-deification, in open defiance of God” and, as the Nelson Study Bible put it, he will personify “the ultimate fulfillment of the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel.”
The false prophet might use a speaking image or statue of perhaps the “Virgin Mary” or a false “Christ” to back up his claims of divinity and holiness. He will receive power to do “miracles” from Satan himself (compare Revelation 19:20), performing “great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men” (Revelation 13:13-14).
We also read about the false prophet in Ezekiel 28:2, where he is identified as the “prince of Tyre”: “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD: Because your heart is lifted up, And you say, I am a god [or, God], I sit in the seat of gods, In the midst of the seas, Yet you are a man, and not a god [or, God], Though you set your heart as the heart of a god [or, God].”
The false prophet or “the man of sin” will be slain by Christ Himself. Christ will throw him alive, together with the military leader—the “beast”—into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). God asks this religious leader (the prince of Tyre) in Ezekiel 28:9, “Will you still say before him [better, “Him,” Jesus Christ] who slays you, I am a god? [better, “I am God?”]. But you shall be a man, and not a god [or, “God”], In the hand of him [better, “Him”] who slays you.”
Ezekiel 28:8 explains that the “prince of Tyre” or the “false prophet” will be thrown into the pit—the abyss. His influence on the nations will cease and he will die the deaths of those that are slain in the midst of the seas. As they die, so he will die. He will die in disgrace (verse 10), as the uncircumcised do when they die by the hands of strangers.
Sometimes, we might get a wrong perception about the woman riding the beast, thinking that throughout their existence, there was always great harmony between these two powers. That is not the case, and we find that in the very end, the political beast power will fight against the Church.
We read that the ten end-time kings or kingdoms, the coming core Europe, will ultimately revolt against and persecute the religious Babylonian system, making it “desolate” (Revelation 17:16), apparently confiscating its property. One possibility for their conduct might be that they feel betrayed by the Church, as she had been promising them peace on earth and invulnerability. When they see, instead, that they themselves are going to be overrun by Asiatic hordes and especially the modern Medes (Isaiah 13:17; the Medes are today’s Russians and Ukrainians—part of the “kings of the east”), they might change their minds about the Church. In any event, we are told that it is God who will move their hearts to fulfill His purpose (Revelation 17:17).
It appears that before or while moving toward the place called Armageddon in the Middle East, at least parts of the armies of the “kings of the east” will sweep through Europe, creating devastating havoc there. At that time, the beast and the false prophet will be dwelling in Jerusalem, so they will not be personally affected by these attacks on Europe. Neither will the ten kings and their armies who will also be in or move towards Jerusalem, as they will fight with the beast against the returning Christ (compare again Revelation 17:14).
As we saw, the ten European military leaders will not destroy nor kill the false prophet. Jesus Christ will do this Himself. They may find enough courage to use that part of their armies which is still stationed in Europe to attack the city of Rome and burn her with fire (Revelation 17:16, 18), yet lacking courage to attack the false prophet (who will have the power to work “miracles”).
But even historically, as the Wikipedia Encyclopedia brings out, the “struggle between kings and popes shaped the western world… After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, there emerged no single powerful secular government in the West. There was however a central ecclesiastical power in Rome, the Catholic Church. In this power vacuum, the Church rose to become the dominant power in the West. The Church expanded in the beginning of the 10th century, and as secular kingdoms gained power at the same time, there naturally arose the conditions for a power struggle between Church and Kingdom over ultimate authority…
“The conflict between Church and State was in many ways a uniquely Western phenomenon… throughout the Middle Ages the Pope claimed the right to depose the Catholic kings of Western Europe, and tried to exercise it, sometimes successfully (see the investiture controversy), sometimes not, as with Henry VIII of England and Henry III of Navarre…”
At other times, a strong alliance between Church and State existed—especially during the periods of the Holy Roman Empire under Justinian and Charlemagne and its subsequent revivals under Otto the Great and Charles V. In the future, the coming initially strong European alliance between Church and State will crumble. Ultimately, the religious and economic European system of modern Babylon will end, and so will the city of Rome (Revelation 17:9, 18), which will be destroyed in one day (Revelation 18:8) and in one hour (verse 17).
The Bible does not say whether the strong collaboration between the beast and the false prophet will ultimately lead to hostility and animosity from the beast and the false prophet towards the Catholic Church, but it is possible. Historically, when focusing on the Pope, great disputes occurred between the Pope and his Church, or between popes themselves. There were times, when the Catholic Church had two or even three simultaneous popes who were all fighting each other.
Considering recent historical military leaders, we may recall that Adolph Hitler was persecuting the institutions and the personnel of the Catholic Church in Germany, as well as in occupied countries, and so did Mussolini, but they did not fight directly against the popes, even though their animosity towards them was well-known.
The Wikipedia Encyclopedia states that “Mussolini made vitriolic attacks against… the Catholic Church. Despite making such attacks, Mussolini would try to win popular support by appeasing the Catholic majority in Italy… On 11 February 1929, he signed a concordat and treaty with the Roman Catholic Church… After the concordat, Mussolini reportedly came close to being excommunicated from the Catholic Church.”
Before his death, Hitler had repeatedly denounced the Catholic Church while announcing his intention to destroy Christianity and replace it with a pagan religion. His Nuremberg rallies were actually an invocation of Mars, the pagan god of war, with Hitler being the High Priest.
When focusing on the false prophet, we learn that he will be possessed by a powerful demon (Revelation 16:13). Since there is a close association between the false prophet and the woman, we conclude that he will be a pope—even though we are NOT told in the Bible that he will be black, or that his name will be Peter, or that he will only have one eye. These are concepts, which are not contained in Scripture—rather, they are “prophecies” from questionable and, in all likelihood, demonic sources.
It is not entirely clear whether the false prophet will be the particular Pope who will be elected by the majority of the Catholic cardinals to be in power at the time of the manifestation of the beast. There is much conflict going on in the Roman Catholic Church today between the Pope and the Vatican and between bishops and cardinals belonging to conservative and liberal factions —as has been the case many times in previous decades and centuries. It might therefore be conceivable that a strong “competitor” to the “duly elected” Pope within the Catholic Church might arise, claiming the title and office of Pope and performing satanic miracles. What we do know for certain is that the false prophet will belong to the religious Babylonian system—he will not arise from Islam or other non-“Christian” religions.
The Bible does not tell us the ancestry of the false prophet. While we are clearly told that the beast will be of Assyrian descent, nothing is mentioned regarding the false prophet. What we need to watch for is a mighty religious “Christian” figure who will begin to perform “miracles,” working together with a charismatic political leader—
the beast—and ultimately moving to Jerusalem at the time when the third temple is being built or completed.
We also need to understand correctly the nature of the ten kings or kingdoms—forming a coming core Europe. They will not be as united as some may think. They are described in Daniel 2, 40-43, as follows:
“And the fourth kingdom [the ancient Roman Empire] 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 [the last revival of the Roman Empire] 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. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom [the Kingdom of God] 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.”
This last revival will be very strong militarily; this military might is also described in Daniel 7:7, 23. But it will also be morally corrupt and brutal, and the ten core European nations or groups of nations, under their leaders, will have their own ideas and philosophies; they will have a strong unity regarding military matters, perhaps due to perceived or real threats and dangers from foreign countries; but they will have a rather fragile “unity” in regard to moral and immoral matters.
The appearance of the patchwork of a perceived but rather weak unity might be supported by marriages between the leaders and their relatives of some of those European nations, but those marriages will not bring about unity of mind.
The New Living Translation renders Daniel 2:43 in this way: “This mixture of iron and clay also shows that these kingdoms will try to strengthen themselves by forming alliances with each other through intermarriage.” Literally, it says, through “mixtures of human seeds.”
Since the toes consist of iron and clay, the thought is also conveyed that some of their leaders will be strong, while others will be weak. Still, the military unification will be very powerful, and the present desire for a strong and “real” European army points toward that direction. All of this shows us that the return of Christ is near.
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link