Q. Is ISIS a sign of the end times?
A. I believe it is, though not for the same reason as some commentators suggested. ISIS or ISIL stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The name Iraq does not appear in the Bible, but Iraq is located where ancient Babylon was. Some therefore identify Iraq as Babylon in Rev and hence a sign of the end times. The name Syria appears in the NASB 9 times, and is ancient Aram. Both Babylon and Aram were enemies of Judah and Israel.
I do not equate Iraq to Rev’s Babylon. The name Babylon appears in the NT 11 times:
• 4 times as literal ancient Babylon – Mt 1:11, 12, 17; Acts 7:43;
• 7 times as figurative Babylon – 1 Pet 5:13; Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21;
Who or what does the symbolic Babylon refer to? The most detailed clues are in Rev 17:
1. Babylon is called the great harlot (17:1, 15, 16; 19:2) or Mother of Harlots (v 5):
• Rev 17:1 … the great harlot who sits on many waters,
• Rev 17:5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
Many waters refer to people and (Gentile) nations:
• Rev 17:15 And he said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.
• Rev 19:6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters …
2. Her main characteristic is immorality:
• Rev 17:2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”
This is mentioned 8 times: Rev 14:8; 17:2 twice, 4; 18:3 twice, 9; 19:2; and refers to her adultery, both physical and spiritual.
3. She is affiliated with a beast:
• Rev 17:3 … and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.
There are only two beasts in the Bible with seven heads and ten horns. The first one is the red dragon in Rev 12:3 i.e. Satan. The second one is in:
• Rev 13:1 Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.
• Rev 17:7 And the angel said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
• Rev 17:9-10, 12 … The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; … The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, …
Scholars agree that this beast from the sea (nations) is the Antichrist. Most commentators equate the seven mountains to Rome, as Rome was built on seven hills. Or the seven kings may refer to seven Roman emperors. Those who take this literally believe the Antichrist to be a revived Roman Empire, or the personal Antichrist to be the head of this future one-world government. Those who take this figuratively believe the Antichrist to be the Roman Catholic (RC) Church. Regardless, Babylon the great harlot is an ally of the Antichrist.
4. She is intoxicated with persecuting God’s people:
• Rev 17:6 … And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.
5. Even though the beast begins as the harlot’s partner, it will turn against her:
• Rev 17:16 And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.
6. The woman is the great city:
• Rev 17:18 The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
Including 17:18, “great city” is mentioned 8 times in Rev:
• Rev 11:8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
• Rev 16:19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. (See also Rev 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21)
Sodom stands for immorality; Egypt represents slavery. Several possible cities have been suggested:
• Babylon, taking the passage literally;
• Rome, because it reigned over the kings of the earth at that time; and
• Jerusalem, because that’s where the Lord was crucified;
but which, if any, is correct?
(To be continued)