Some Christian “prophecy teachers,” such as Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth (pp. 103-23), assert the Bible predicts there will be a one-world government and a one-world church during the latter days. To support this assertion, they usually cite as their foremost biblical text Revelation 17. But that is not what that text means; moreover, nowhere does the Bible teach any such thing.
Bible readers should know that humankind long ago tried to create something like a one-world government, but God put a stop to it so that it could never happen. We learn about it in the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis. Both at creation and after the flood, God told Adam and Noah, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1.28; 9.1). So, it was against God’s will for humans to congregate to create a one-world government. Why? We read in Genesis 11.1.9 in the NRSV,
“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’ The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the LORD said, ‘Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”
There certainly is a connection between the above text, Gen 11.1-9, and the primary biblical text that Christian prophecy teachers cite for their viewpoint that in the latter days there will be a one-world government on the earth. That text, Revelation 17, begins as follows:
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great whore who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the inhabitants of the earth have become drunk.’ So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; and on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations.’ And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.”
This text, Rev 17.1-6, should be understood as the counterpart of Revelation 12. Therein, a sun-clothed woman is depicted with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. As she is about to give birth to a male child, “a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads” appears to “devour her child as soon as it was born” (Rev 12.3, 4). This vision means that the woman symbolizes God’s people, the dragon is “the Devil and Satan” (v. 9), and the male child to born is Jesus. So, the woman called “Babylon the great” in Rev 17.5 is the counterpart of this woman who represents God’s people in Revelation 12.
Two religions are depicted in Revelation 12 and 17: (1) the religion of God symbolized by the sun-clothed woman and (2) the religion of man apart from God symbolized by the woman called “Babylon the great.” She is described as “the mother of whores and of the earth’s abominations” (Rev 17.5). This means she is the original source of all religion that is an abomination to God, thus not just false religion in the Christian church or some particular church as some current prophecy teachers assert. (For, Protestant Reformer Martin Luther incorrectly interpreted “Babylon the great” in Revelation 17 as his former church–the Roman Catholic Church–although it did have some elements of this Babylon.) Babylon as source, here, refers back to the creation of the city of Babel and its tower in Genesis 11.
What about “the beast” on which the woman Babylon rides in Rev 17.3? Since she symbolizes all false religion that has ever existed in the world, the beast symbolizes human governments that have supported false religion. And just as the rider controls the beast, so false religion historically has controlled human government that has supported it. This scenario is witnessed in much of human history.
What about other details of the beast in Revelation 17? Its seven heads symbolize the great empires of world history. For these “seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; also, they are seven kings” (Rev 17.9). That is, false religion sits gloriously in history on seven empires represented by their foremost kings.
We further read of these kings, “five have fallen, one is living, and the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain only a little while” (Rev 17.10). It means the world’s five greatest empires have come and gone at the time of this writing, and the “one living” was the sixth–the Roman Empire. The seventh would arise in the future, which I think has not occurred yet, and its life will be short.
Then we read, “As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction” (Rev 17.11). At this point in the prophecy, I think Revelation 17 becomes more difficult to interpret. I believe it doubles in referring to the empire and the final Antichrist. That happens earlier in Revelation where the beast is first introduced, in Revelation 13.
As for “the ten horns” on the beast, they “are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom” at the time of writing (Rev 17.4). That is, they shall become kings in the future and reign with the Antichrist. For we read of them, “they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast” (v. 12), now referring to the Antichrist. These ten horns that symbolize ten kings correspond to the ten horns that symbolize ten kings on a beast in Daniel 7.7. That beast symbolizes a final form of the Roman Empire in what many prophecy teachers rightly call “the revived Roman Empire.”
When this happens in the future, “the ten horns … and the beast [the Antichrist] will hate the whore [Babylon the great]; they will make her desolate and naked; they will devour her flesh and burn her up with fire” (Rev 17.16). This seems to mean they will destroy Babylon, which is false religion.
Then the end of the age will arrive, when the ten kings of the empire “are united in yielding their power and authority to the beast” (Rev 17.13), that is, the Antichrist. At the end they “they will make war on the Lamb,” who is Jesus at his second coming, “and the Lamb will overcome them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings” (v. 14).
Only thereafter will there be a one-world government throughout all of the earth. It will be ruled by Jesus. It will be “the kingdom of God” that Jesus will bring with him at his return, and it will be eternal. Some Bible texts about this include Daniel 2.35, 44-45; 7.13-14, 22, 27. Then will come to pass what Jesus taught in his model prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 2.9).