Rejecting a Revived Roman Empire – Profile of the Antichrist

“And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.”

[Daniel 9:26]

Although there are various eschatological views pertaining to the final end-times empire of the Antichrist, the prevailing and most popular thought that has been propagated out of the western church is that this final kingdom will be a revived Roman Empire.

This idea really gained traction in the early 1990s with the establishment of the European Union, which many believed to be a literal fulfillment of Bible prophecy. A revived Roman Empire combined with a corrupt and apostate Catholic Church provided just the right platform for the emergence of the beast and the false prophet … or so it seemed.

Flag of the European Union

Today, nearly 30 years later, the European Union clearly is disintegrating, and although the Catholic Church continues to show signs of corruption and credal compromise, there has since emerged another force on the world stage that can no longer be ignored — Islam.

In the early 1990s, radical Islam seemed to be on the periphery of the geopolitical spectrum and barely even acknowledged in the west, until that fateful day in September of 2001. After the tragic events of 9-11, a spotlight was suddenly cast upon Islam and has remained ever since. Terms like jihad and shariah became common place in the news, around the dinner table, and in the pulpits of America.

Radical Islam poses a new threat that the modern world has not seen since the likes of Hitler and Nazi Germany. Undergirded by zealous fundamentalism, irrational anti-semitism, radical indoctrination, and religious exceptionalism — not to mention being motivated by world domination — Islam has proven to be both globally ubiquitous and fiercely resilient. Ironically, the same European Union that was once believed to be a revival of the ancient Roman Empire has deferred to the demands of Islam and now risks losing its own identity in the shadows of shariah.

So what does Islam have to do with Bible prophecy and more specifically the rise of the Antichrist? Well, to state it bluntly, EVERYTHING!

I believe it is time we cast aside the idea that the Antichrist will emerge from a revived Roman Empire and begin to read the writing on the wall, and more specifically of the Biblical prophets. Entire doctrines of eschatology have been crafted around a Roman Antichrist and a revived Roman Empire, but the Scriptures paint an entirely different picture. If we aren’t willing to take off our “western lenses” and look at Biblical prophecy through Israel-centric lenses, we will miss the whole impetus of the Biblical narrative.

WHAT About Daniel 9:26?

If there has been one verse of Scripture universally accepted that supposedly makes the case for a Roman Antichrist in the last days, it is Daniel 9:26-27 [see above]. This one obscure verse has been used as a proof text to promote an end-times scenario that when examined more closely, just doesn’t add up. By taking a deeper look at this verse and combining it with some basic world history, I will show that the final end-times kingdom of the beast is not a revived Roman Empire, but actually a revived Islamic Caliphate.

Flag of the Ottoman Empire [A.D. 1299-1923]

A.D. 70

Before I can deconstruct the idea that Rome will be the revived kingdom of the Antichrist, I need to explain why so many have taught this concept over the years. The argument goes something like this …

  1. Daniel 9:26-27 says that the people of the prince to come will destroy the city (Jerusalem), and the sanctuary (the Temple).
  2. In A.D. 70, the Romans, under General Titus, destroyed Jerusalem and the 2nd Temple, partially fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel 9.
  3. Therefore, the future Antichrist, or “prince to come,” must arise from a revived Roman Empire in the last days, ultimately fulfilling the prophecy.

Now on the surface, this argument seems to work. History does indeed prove that the Roman Empire sent legions of soldiers to siege and destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70, killing nearly 1.5 million Jews in the process. But once you drill down a little deeper and read it within the greater historical context of the Biblical narrative, Rome becomes quite implausible as the kingdom of the Antichrist.

The Surrounding Nations

To say that the Biblical prophets place a concerted emphasis on the nations surrounding Israel is a gross understatement. Nearly every passage that describes an alliance of armies coming against Israel in the last days leading up to the Day of the LORD, specifically identifies the nations and peoples immediately surrounding Israel. The prophets invoke vivid imagery of God’s future judgment on Israel’s enemies, naming the likes of Edom, Moab, Midian, Arabia, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Cush, Put, Lud, Libya, Tyre etc …

This coming future battle will culminate in the Valley of Decision [Joel 3], when Jerusalem will become a “cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples” [Zechariah 12:2] and when “the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle” [Zechariah 14:3].

Jesus says in Luke 21:20, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near,” and Revelation 19:19 depicts this great end-times war saying, “the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army.”

While there is no shortage of these prophetic passages, it is essential to understand that all of the nations surrounding Israel today are overwhelmingly Muslim nations, who share a common disdain and hatred for the Jews. It only makes sense that the nations that eventually will unite under the Antichrist in the last days will most certainly be a revival of the Islamic Caliphate. After the death of Mohammed, Islam rapidly conquered the Middle East through force and terror. Eventually the Ottoman Empire dominated the Middle East for more than 600 years [A.D. 1299-1923]. It is much more apparent that a form of this Ottoman Empire, not the Roman Empire, is the empire that will be revived under the Antichrist.

THE PEOPLE OF THE PRINCE TO COME

But what about Rome? Doesn’t nearly every study Bible identify Rome to be the revived kingdom in the end from which this “prince” of darkness will come? Isn’t Rome the 4th beast depicted in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of empires in Daniel 2?[I will address Daniel 2 in a later post] Surely Rome must have some role in the Biblical end-times scenario, right? Many scholars are determined that the same Romans who destroyed the temple in A.D. 70 will once again lead an alliance of armies against Jerusalem in the last days.

How can history help us answer these questions? By taking a look at the details of the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, you may be surprised to discover which “people” really trampled the city and the sanctuary.

Roman Provincial Army in A.D. 70

It is easy to assume that because Rome was the conquering empire in power during the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, it must have been an army of Italians, or Europeans, who leveled the city and burned the temple to the ground. But history reveals a different story altogether. Rome conquered many different provinces and people groups during its expansion and was forced to recruit these “provincials” to man their armies.

By the time of A.D. 70, Italian soldiers were reserved for the elite Pretorian Guard, but the rest of Rome’s armies consisted of people from various other ethnic groups on the fringes of the empire. The “provincialization” of the army was true for all of the Roman legions of this time period, and this specifically was the case with regard to the Eastern legions that were used to attack Jerusalem.

Author Joel Richardson points out that the Roman legions had been stationed in Judea, Syria and Egypt and that there was also “a strong contingent of Arabs, who hated the Jews” who accompanied the soldiers. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus confirms this.

“Malchus also, the king of Arabia, sent a thousand horsemen, besides five thousand footmen, the greatest part of which were archers; so that the whole army, including the auxiliaries sent by the kings, as well horsemen and footmen, when all were united together, amounted to sixty thousand”

(Flavius Josephus, The Complete Works of Josephus, The Wars of the Jews or The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, Book III, Chapter 4, Paragraph 20).

History reveals that over 55,000 soldiers during the siege of Jerusalem were Eastern peoples. As Richardson has said, “that would mean that there was a maximum of one Western European soldier to every eleven Middle Eastern soldiers. Eleven to one! Yet in all likelihood, the ratio was much higher; perhaps closer to twenty to one.”

Furthermore, according to Josephus, it was not the Roman General Titus who ordered the destruction of the Temple, but rather the Middle Eastern provincials under his command who determined to exact their hatred on the Jews. As a matter of fact, these provincial soldiers directly disobeyed the orders of Rome in burning down the temple.

“Titus supposing what the fact was, that the house itself might yet he saved, he came in haste and endeavored to persuade the soldiers to quench the fire…yet were their passions too hard for the regards they had for Caesar, and the dread they had of him who forbade them, as was their hatred of the Jews, and a certain vehement inclination to fight them, too hard for them also…And thus was the holy house burnt down, without Caesar’s approbation”

(Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 6, Chapter 4).

Based on the historical record, we must determine that the “people of the prince to come” spoken of by the prophet Daniel were not Italians from Europe, but rather they were Syrians, Egyptians, and Arabians — provincial soldiers under Roman command — who hated the Jews and delighted in destroying their most holy city. Once we have an accurate view of history, Daniel 9:26 makes complete sense and fits perfectly into the greater Biblical narrative.

The ethnic people groups who destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70 are the same people groups who are surrounding Israel today in Muslim majority nations. It only stands to reason that the Antichrist will establish his 10 king coalition from these Muslim nations and revive the ancient Islamic Caliphate of the Ottoman Empire. The stage is set and the pieces are in place for the right leader to unite these nations under the same evil spirit of antichrist that already is at work in the world.

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