There is a difficult prophetic passage in Revelation, some say the most difficult. Revelation 17:9-11 says-
“Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.” (Revelation 17:9-11)
Oh, boy, where do you start? OK, in the first phrase, it says ‘here is wisdom.’ To me, that means that the interpretation won’t be easy or obvious. It will take deeper study, but that it will be revealed to the one who seeks wisdom. James 1:5 makes that promise.
Next, “Mountains”. In biblical symbolism, mountains represent kingdoms or strong, powerful governments. When it says THE mountain, like in Isaiah 2:2-4, it means Jesus’ government. “It shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains.”
“The seven” past kingdoms (empires) are generally accepted to be Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Media-Persia and Rome past and/or Rome to come, or perhaps someone else. “The eighth” seems to be the antichrist which is part of the seventh.
Remember that in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue of the kingdoms (Dan 2:31-35), it was gold at the head, silver at the chest and arms, bronze torso and thighs, legs of iron and feet of a mixture of clay and iron. A side note, you notice two things of the statue’s metals: as they progress from head to toe, the metals become less expensive. Gold is the most precious metal, iron the least. Clay is worth nothing at all. But they also become stronger. Gold is the softest metal but iron is strongest.
The legs of iron are generally thought to be the split Roman empire. The Romans split their empire in 330AD when they allowed Constantinople to become a sister capital, and the kingdom was split east and west. (The feet of iron and clay are thought to the coming Tribulation kingdom.) So let’s look at Constantinople.
Now known as Istanbul, it is located in Turkey and is its largest city. Wikipedia says Istanbul has served as the capital of the Roman Empire (330–395), the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). That’s a lot of empires! It was also chosen as a joint European Capital of Culture for 2010-2011, and as such organized cultural events with a strong European dimension. Yet…Istanbul is not European, and despite its long desire to align with the west, that desire has been thwarted.
Though Turkey was one of the first countries to become a member of the Council of Europe in 1949, a predecessor to the EU, and is now an associate member of the EU, it has been denied full membership ever since its application in 1987. It seems that the two legs of the Roman empire are still split, though it is part of the body of historically precedent empires and loosely connected to the west, is not the west.
The Turks figure into end time prophecy as the nation who aligns finally with the east. They come together with Armenia, Russia, Iran, and northern Africa and others to attack Israel. Their final status as an Israel-hater is certain. The journey from been a tumultuous one ever since Paul’s missionary days into Asia Minor, which Turkey is still known as (also Anatolia). The question is, how does Turkey get from here to there?
Ezekiel 38:6 says that Gomer and the house of beth-Togarmah join the Gog-Magog attack. I interpret Gomer to be Turkey and beth-Togarmah as Armenia. You can research the historical/biblical names here, and here, and directly from the bible here and here. Turkey reverts to her roots in the last days, no matter the Western overlay this generation has come to see Turkey outwardly present.
Now to the original verse in Revelation. The verse says that there were/are 7 kingdoms. Some say the 7th both are Rome, and some say that the 7th could be the Ottoman Empire. Note the last part of the Revelation verse, ‘the beast is the eighth AND is of the seven’ could be satisfied by a ruler from the eastern leg of the statue that was part of Roman empire but not Rome.
The Ottomans existed as an empire for 500 years, disappearing in 1922 with the cessation of the office of Caliph (Ruler of all Muslims). Jack Kelley explores the notion of the Ottomans as 7th Revelation Kingdom, here. He said in part, “There are already some who believe the 7th Kingdom of Rev. 17:10 is the Ottoman Empire, and point out that Constantinople is also a city on seven hills. If so, its loyalty to Islam would confirm the identity of the one world End Times religion, and could also support the idea of an Islamic anti-Christ, the one some call al-Mahdi. As details of Islamic eschatology become more widely known, prophecy students are discovering a striking similarity between descriptions of al Mahdi and the anti-Christ.”
John MacArthur said in his sermon “The Grim Reality of the Last Days“, “Now somebody might say, “Well, when you think about the future and what’s going to happen in the world, don’t we have a revived Roman Empire? Doesn’t that mean the west? You remember that the image in Daniel 2 of the final world empire had two legs and the Roman Empire had the west and the east? You know, of course, if you know history that the western part of the Roman Empire basically dissolved and the east survived for a thousand years or more so that at the time of the New Testament, sixty percent of the Roman Empire was land that is now under Muslim control…at least 60 percent. The vast majority of the Roman Empire in New Testament times is today under Muslim control and Islam is moving across the west rapidly in Europe, isn’t it? When you have a picture in Ezekiel 38, you have a picture of the Antichrist, Gog and you have the listing of eight nations, that will be a coalition for the Antichrist. All eight of those are Muslim nations, all eight of them. And they ring the Mediterranean to Libya. In Revelation 17:9 to 11 it says there were six kingdoms and then a seventh and finally an eighth. What is the seventh? Well there’s been a discussion about that, it well could be the Ottoman Turk Empire which lasted five hundred years and didn’t really fall until the modern era. The Turkish Empire was the last Caliphate which ended in 1923 and they’re waiting for the restoration when the Mahdi comes.”
What I’m saying is, the bible shows us that Turkey is a powerful and influential nation in the Gog-Magog battle. We saw Turkey’s influence come to the fore last year in the Gaza Flotilla attack, and we see it now in her continuing spokesmanship for Muslims in Asia Minor.
This article from a Turkish daily newspaper titled “Turkey is shaping the Arab Spring” states flatly, “the Ottomans are back”.
That the Ottomans could be the 7th kingdom mentioned in the Revelation verse is worth pondering, as we watch Turkey’s pre-eminence in the Middle East rise again.