In a World Net Daily article titled, “‘Evangelical’ Christians now thanking Allah” the author of The Islamic Antichrist, Joel Richardson, criticizes Emergent Church pastor, Brian MacLaren for encouraging believers to celebrate the Islamic holiday Ramadan. It amazes me that any Christian, especially a pastor like Brian MacLaren who should know better, would join with Muslims in celebrating the origins of the Quran (that’s what Ramadan is about). And so I’m with Richardson on this point. I firmly believe in showing hospitality to Muslims and developing warm friendships with those of all faiths. But for me to ask a Muslim to celebrate with me the true meaning of Easter (i.e., Passover) is to ask a Muslim to deny his faith. Likewise, for me to join in celebrating with a Muslim the true meaning of Ramadan is to ask me to deny my faith. It just so happens that the Christian faith is true and God-given while the Muslim faith is based on a demonic deception (hint: the spirit who revealed the Quran to Mohammed wasn’t actually Gabriel as he claimed–that spirit’s real name started with “S” and ended with “atan”). And so what Christians should be aiming at in extending hospitality to Muslims is the salvation of their souls through faith in Jesus Christ.
But this same article on WND goes on to promote Richardson’s book by quoting,
The Bible abounds with proofs that the Antichrist’s empire will consist only of nations that are, today, Islamic… Despite the numerous prevailing arguments for the emergence of a revived European Roman empire as the Antichrist’s power base, the specific nations the Bible identifies as comprising his empire are today all Muslim.
The article continues,
Richardson believes the key error of many previous prophecy scholars involves the misinterpretation of a prediction by Daniel to Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel describes the rise and fall of empires of the future, leading to the end times. Western Christians have viewed one of those empires as Rome, when, claims Richardson, Rome never actually conquered Babylon and was thus disqualified as a possibility.
According to the article, Richardson postulates that the Messianic figure expected by many Muslims called “the Mahdi” is one-and-the-same as the Bible’s predicted “Antichrist”. There are many reasons, from Scripture, why a Christian should reject this speculation. But the first reason springs from Richardson’s own assertion that since Rome never actually conquered Babylon, Rome could not therefore be the fourth empire predicted by Daniel in the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. However nothing in the text of Daniel 2 indicates that the fourth empire must conquer Babylon.
For instance, in verse 39, Daniel explains that “another kingdom inferior to [Babylon] shall arise after [the Babylonian empire].” The only qualifier is that the second empire would be “after,” and “inferior to,” the Babylonian. The rise of the the third empire is predicted next in verse 39: “…and yet a third kindom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.” Here we could make an argument that to “rule over all the earth” it would also be necessary for this kingdom to have conquered Babylon. But the word for “earth” in the Hebrew Bible, “eretz” can also be translated “ground” as in dirt, or “land”. (This is much the same way as “earth” has a range of meanings in English: the sentence, “the seed took root in the earth” does not have the concept of the whole globe in mind at all, but only a local patch of soil.) However, the qualifiers “…and yet a third” and “of bronze” point out that this empire would come after the second in order and have something characteristic of bronze about it (though the “bronze” may just indicate that it is inferior in quality to its “silver” predecessor). The next empire is predicted in verse 40: “And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these.” No mention about conquering Babylon directly. The most important qualifier here is that it shall be the “fourth” in order. Also it is said to be an empire “strong as iron”.
How should we understand the fulfillment of this prophecy? By reviewing a little history. Babylon, the first of these empires, ruled from about 603 to 538 BC. The next empire (the one that did actually conquer and overtake the Babylonian empire) was an empire of the Medes and the Persians combined–sometimes called Medo-Persia. It lasted from about 559 to 330 BC. The third empire, the one that replaced and overtook the Persian empire, was Greece. Under Alexander the Great, the Greek empire overthrew the Persian empire to become the third great empire in the fulfillment of this prophecy. The territory conquered by Alexander was so vast that the description of ruling “over all the earth” is appropriate. To identify the fourth empire we’ve seen that the main question must be, “What empire came next? And did this next empire overthrow not Babylon, but Greece?” The answer is Rome and yes it did overthrow Greece to rule as an empire from about 168 BC to 476 AD.
But Richardon’s other important assertion is that all of the countries identified with the Antichrist are today Islamic countries. Let’s see if this is right.
Daniel chapter seven contains a prophecy that is in many respects parallel to the one we’ve looked at in Daniel 2. Verses 1-12 detail a vision that the prophet Daniel had in which he saw four “beasts” rise up on the Earth, one after another, each one overthrowing the previous beast. In verse 12, after seeing the fourth beast destroyed, Daniel notes, “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.” In verse 17, an angel explains the “beasts” to Daniel saying, “These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth.” And a little later in verse 23, the angel adds, “As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms…” So we see that these four “beasts” represent four kingdoms–just like the prophecy of empires in chapter 2. And the four kingdoms are, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.
But as each “beast” / empire conquers the one before it, it doesn’t completely annhilate its predecessor. Verse 12 said that each of the first three beasts lose their “dominion” but continue alive. So what is actually happening in the prophecy is that the seat of ruling power is moving, from Babylon to Persia, to Greece and finally, to Rome. What’s so interesting about chapter 7’s prophecy is that the fourth beast, Rome, isn’t conquered like the others were. Instead Daniel foresees a new seat of power grow up out of the Roman Empire–it’s still Roman in essence but it is not unified like the original Roman Empire was. Daniel sees, in verse 7, that Rome, the fourth beast, “had ten horns…and behold, there came up among them another horn…” The same angel explains this to Daniel in verse 24 and following: “As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom (the fourth beast, the Roman Empire) ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them… He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High… and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.”
In short, this means that out of the Roman Empire 10 smaller kingdoms would emerge with an eleventh “kingdom”, “different from the former ones” (verse 24) taking leadership among them and persecuting “the saints of the Most High” for a period of time. This eleventh horn that persecutes the sainst is identified by many Christian commentators as “The Antichrist”. The real question here is how to identify these other ten horns. Are they Islamic countries like Richardson contends?
Well, first of all, where do they exist? To answer that we need to pay attention to one verse while keeping another one in mind. Notice that verse 24 says, “out of this kingdom (which we see is the Roman Empire) ten kings shall arise”. So the 10 kingdoms that are associated under the Antichrist’s leadership come “out of” the Roman Empire. Now the Roman Empire in its zenith was big. It stretched from England to Egypt and from Spain to Palestine. Richardson’s right: it never did conquer Babylon. So obviously we need to try and identify the “ten kingdoms” that come “out of” the Roman Empire by searching within the boundaries that the Roman Empire did include–not outside those boundaries. But actually, we have to narrow our search even more. We need to keep in mind verse 12 which ads the detail that the bodies of the other three beasts/empires are still around though they don’t dominate any more. So the ten horns cannot include any countries that were ever part of those first three empires: the horns cannot be found in the old territory that was ruled by Babylon, by Persia, or by Greece. This means that when we are looking to identify the ten kingdoms that rose up out of Rome, we have to confine our search to those countries West of Greece that were part of the Roman Empire. This leaves a fairly small territory–the area we call Western Europe. The boundaries of that part of the Roman Empire ran along the Mediterranean Sea on the South, the Atlantic Ocean on the West, through the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria on the North (since Rome never actually conquered Germany), and on the East along Italy’s border with Greece.
Today this territory includes, not by coincidence, TEN COUNTRIES. They are not Islamic countries (yet). They are post-Christian countries which at one time all fell under the leadership of the Pope who ruled from Rome after the fall of the Roman Empire (incidentally, this means that the Popes of Rome are the eleventh horn, which we call the “Antichrist”). These countries are Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Luxemburg, Belgium, Spain and Portugal.