I am not sure where most Christians get their information on Bible prophecy. If you are like me, you probably got introduced to Jesus’ return in church and then read some books by prophecy “experts” to put it all together. That was me in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I was sure Jesus was coming to get me any day. He would rapture me up to keep me from the tribulation. World events were falling into place. The European Union had been spawned and the revived Roman Empire was about to rear its power and authority to encourage everyone to worship the antichrist. Of course, true Christians would not be on earth to see this. True Christians would be raptured into the air to meet Jesus. I read dozens of books on this subject, and I compared the information I had read to the Bible to see if it was plausible.
Those who follow this line of thinking are, sometimes, very strong in their assertions. To some, if you disagree with their theology, you might not be a “real Christian.” It was heresy to disagree with established pre-tribulation end times Bible teachers. And, in truth, I had no reason to. I agreed with them. But I had some unsettled questions in my end-times theology.
My first area of uneasiness had to do with the Old Testament. If God was going to judge the world for its sin, why was Jesus always punishing the nations around Israel upon His return? He was never in South America or Australia punishing those sinners. Jesus was treading the wine press of the wrath of God in Edom. Old Testament prophets pronounced God’s judgment on Babylon, Arabia, Damascus, Tyre, Gaza, and Egypt (modern day Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Egypt), all the nations surrounding Israel.
Joel 3:18 says that Egypt will become a waste and Edom will become a desolate wilderness Because of the violence done to the sons of Judah, In whose land they have shed innocent blood. God will avenge their blood. Amos 1:11 says Edom will be punished because he pursued his brother with a sword. Obadiah 1:10 says that Edom will be judged because of violence done to your brother. Zechariah 12:9 states that in that day that God will come out against all those nations that come against Jerusalem. Many of the judgments listed in Revelation are related to blood. Revelation 16:6 says:
6 “for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.”
Another problem I had with what I was reading in books was that I could not imagine a European led government forcing the world to worship anything. It just did not make sense to me. The church and governments in Europe acted independently from one another. I could not imagine them joining forces again, even under an evil regime.
The last problem I had was the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture. I was very familiar with the verses in I Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. But those verses just explained how we were to be transformed. The verses in Matthew 24 explained that Jesus was going to return and retrieve His elect after the tribulation. I never could see anything to indicate that Christians would be caught up to Jesus before the tribulation in Israel. In fact, Jesus tells us that the world will hate us; we would be persecuted and even killed. Jesus encourages us to endure and overcome.
Several years ago I happened upon a book by Walid Shoebat that answered many of my arguments over modern day prophecy teachers. I had been taught that the harlot of Revelation 17 stood for all the false religions of the Babylonians that had found it’s way into our culture. Christmas, I was told, was celebrated on December 25th in order to coincide with a Babylonian pagan holiday. The same was done with Easter, Ishtar. I was taught that the new age movement was going to join the world together in a spiritual battle against God. One writer identified the Roman Catholic Church as the woman that road upon the beast. The main point was that God was not happy and He would judge us because of it. It all made sense to me.
At this point I believe it is important to lay down some ground rules in order for us to understand what is being said in Revelation 17. The Bible sometimes uses symbolism to make a point. Kingdoms or empires are sometimes referred to as mountains or beasts. A head can also be a kingdom or a king. Water is used to refer to groups of people. A woman is used to identify a spiritual entity. God frequently punished Israel for going after the harlot or playing the harlot instead of being devoted to Him.
Revelation 17 is very descriptive:
3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, 5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” 6 And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.
The first thing we notice is that John was taken to the desert to observe a woman sitting on a beast. The woman is dressed extravagantly indicting great wealth. She is identified as Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations. Notice also that the woman is drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the witnesses of Jesus.
Follow along with me now. What false religion is in the desert of the Middle East is very wealthy and kills Jews and Christians? This false religion identified as “the mother of harlots” is the greatest false religion of all time. The term “mother of harlots” is used to identify the size and scope of this false religion, not that this religion was the source of all false religions. The terminology is similar to the terminology used to describe the Rose Bowl football game, “the granddaddy of them all.” The phrase “the granddaddy of them all” is used to show the prominence of the Rose Bowl game. It is not used to indicate that the Rose Bowl was the source of all other bowl games. Now we will take a look at what this rich false religion in the desert is riding upon.
Verses 9–11 give us some insight about the beast:
9 Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. 11 The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction.
Let’s put together what we know so far. In the desert, a wealthy false religion full of abominations responsible for killing Jews and Christians is riding on seven empires. During John’s day five of the empires had fallen, one was present during Johns day, and one had not yet appeared and is itself, an eighth empire and one of the seven.
John stated that five empires had already fallen when he was writing Revelation. The fallen empires were the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Greek. The Roman Empire was in power during John’s day. John says that the seventh empire, the one after the Roman Empire, has not yet appeared but is also an eighth empire.
The Islamic empire, culminating with the Ottoman Empire, ruled the Middle East for 1300 years, until 1924. Islamic rule ended when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk dissolved the Caliphate at the end of World War 1. This is the fatal wound to the seventh head of the beast in Revelation 13:3. Yet, The Islamic Empire dissolved in 1924 is alive again. The Islamic State has reestablished the Caliphate and controls the same geographical area as the other historical empires. The head wound to an Islamic Empire has been healed. To read an article about the human toll that Islam has imposed upon the world click here.
I will ask the question again. What wealthy false religion in the desert is intent on killing Jews and Christians? Certainly the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic State are motivated by this false religion of Islam. Revelation 17:14 says:
14 “These will wage war against the Lamb (JESUS), and the Lamb (JESUS) will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.”
Revelation 17:18 Identifies this false religion (Islam) as the great city that reins over the kings of the earth. Mecca is the birthplace of Islam. Because of the importance of oil to the world, Saudi Arabia has influenced kings and governments. The world has turned a blind eye to the blood thirsty, anti-Semitic, sexual perversions that are inherent to Islam. Revelation 18:3 says:
3 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.”
What wine in the desert has made the kings drunk? It is most certainly the oil that Saudi Arabia sells to the world that causes the world to turn a blind eye.
It is interesting that Revelation 17:16 says the Beast (Islamic State) will hate the harlot (Mecca) and make her desolate and naked and will eat her flesh and burn her up with fire. The Qur’an calls for the elimination of Kafirs (unbelievers) and hypocrites (Muslims that live contrary to sharia). The Islamic State has already made threats against the Kaaba in Mecca.
Here is the bottom line for what is happening when Jesus returns. God is going to punish Israel, once again, for unfaithfulness. This is the tribulation that people are always talking about. This has nothing to do with America; it has everything to do with Israel. Once Jerusalem is attacked, Jesus will return and obliterate, once and for all, the false religion of Islam. He will punish the nations for shedding the blood of Jews and Christians. He will punish them for their hatred of Israel. He will establish his kingdom in Jerusalem. Only then will there finally be true peace in Israel.