What is prophecy? Why was it written? Should we study prophecy merely for the purpose of titillating our curiosity about the future?
Prophecy is not a matter of setting dates. Nor is it a way of looking into a crystal ball, or determining the future by the movements of the stars. Prophecy may be defined as history written (or spoken) in advance under divine inspiration. It may only be defined as God’s warning message given in advance to people or nations of what He intends to do.
GOD’S WARNING MESSAGE
God inspired the prophet Amos to tell us, “The Lord Eternal never does anything without telling his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Before God intervenes in the affairs of a nation, or the world, He first warns those who will be directly affected of what He intends to do. Why does He do this? To give them a chance to change their ways, to repent of their sins, so that the prophesied calamity need not come to pass.
God is absolutely fair, just and righteous. He never punishes, without first sending a warning, and giving people this chance to repent. Keep this vital key in mind as we study God’s warning for our generation with this and the following lessons on Biblical prophecy.
THE PURPOSE OF PROPHECY
The purpose of prophecy, therefore, is twofold: First, it is given in love to encourage people to repent of their evil ways so they can escape punishment. Second, it is given for those who don’t repent at first, so that when their punishment comes, they will then acknowledge their sins and repent toward the God who will then deliver and rescue them (Deut. 4:25-31)!
When ancient Israel trampled on God’s warning, they were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians (721-718 B.C.). When Judah likewise rebelled, they, too, were deported to Babylon (beginning about 604 B.C.).
But God is not concerned with Israel and Judah only. He is concerned about all the peoples of the world, and the same principles regarding the warning of prophecy apply to all.
And so it was that in Babylon, where Judah had been carried captive, God began to reveal through His prophet Daniel an astounding forty-five hundred year outline for the future of much of the world, including a final awesome political revival of the Babylonian system, which believe it or not, is destined to startle modern Western civilization!
One night King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that greatly deressed and troubled him. By morning he had forgotten the exact nature of the dream, so he called his magicians, astrologers and sorcerers and demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed and what it meant. But of course, they could not.
Then Daniel, a young Jewish captive to whom God had given understanding of visions and dreams (Dan. 1:17), was brought before the king. Daniel disclaimed having any more human ability to interpret dreams than the Chaldean magicians. “But, Daniel declared, “there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days” (Dan. 2:28). Then Daniel, through God’s inspiration, interpreted the dream for the king.
The purpose of the dream was twofold. First, to reveal God’s government, the fact that God rules over all. Second, to reveal what was to happen from then on into “the latter days,” reaching all the way down to our 21st century space age!
THE GREAT IMAGE
As a picture of the future, from Daniel’s day forward, God caused King Nebuchadnezzar to dream of a huge, four-sectioned image. Its four parts, as we shall see, represented four consecutive world-dominating kingdoms. Let’s understand that dream as God inspired Daniel to explain it.
What did the “terrible image,” with its four connecting sections look like (Dan. 2:31-33)?
COMMENT: This great image was in the form of a man to show that it represented man’s government, in contrast to the Kingdom of God which will succeed it (vs. 34-35, 44).
Which kingdom did the head of gold represent (vs. 36-38)?
COMMENT: The first kingdom, or empire, here symbolically described as the “head of gold,” was Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was located in the same geographical location as the ancient “Babylonian” kingdom of Nimrod, who forsook God’s ways soon after the flood. And his kingdom continued the same old anti-God-system promulgated by pagan Nimrod! Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom – the Chaldean Empire with its capital at Babylon--- ruled from 625 to 539 B.C.
Previously, in cooperation with the Medes, Babylon had conquered the earlier Assyrian Empire. In the division of the spoils, the Medes were given the rule over Asia Minor and Assyria Proper, into which the ten-tribed “House of Israel” had been taken, while Babylon took all the rest. And so Babylon had become a world-ruling empire.
The Babylonian triumph, however, was not the result of Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness. But that hard lesson Nebuchadnezzar still had to learn. He had to learn that Almighty God rules in the affairs of men (Dan. 4:25, last part) and that God was the One who had decreed that His people should be taken into slavery, thus denying them, for some time to come, the position of world rule which they could have had.
Why was rulership taken from Israel and Judah? Because they had utterly failed in their God-given mission to be a light to the world (Deut 4:4-10, 23-27)? Had they obeyed God, and qualified to rule, God would ultimately have put them in a position of world rulership. Of course God knew Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians would likewise utterly fail. He knew, because of their carnal-minded nature (Rom. 8:7), they also would disobey Him. So He predicted still other world empires that would succeed each other after the fall of the Babylonian Empire.
How was the second great world empire represented in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2:32)? Would it be inferior to his empire (v. 39)?
COMMENT: Nebuchadnezzar’s Chaldean or Babylonian Empire had been represented as a head of gold (v. 38) – not only because it was first, but because it was superior in many ways to those which were to follow. Also, like a human “head,” it was in a position to set the intellectual and moral course for the whole “body” – the empires which were to come.
We know from history that the following second kingdom was the Persian Empire (539-330 B.C.), often called the Medo-Persian Empire because it was composed of the Medes and Persians. This dual monarchy composed of two nations was represented by the two arms and breast of silver.
It did not have the excellence of the “head” as did Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, just as silver is inferior to gold, but it was stronger militarily as silver is stronger than gold.
How as the third world-ruling empire portrayed (Dan. 2:32, 39)?
COMMENT: The third kingdom was a “kingdom of brass (bronze).” In some ways it was inferior to both the Chaldean and the Medo-Persian Empires, but stronger militarily than both, just as brass or bronze is much stronger than gold or silver. This was the Greek kingdom (334-31 B.C.) of Alexander the Great of Macedonia, who conquered the Persian Empire.
Belly and thighs (or hips) were particularly appropriate to designate the habits and morals of the Greek Hellenistic civilization.
How was the fourth kingdom represented (v. 33)? Was it to be the strongest of all, yet have the least real value (v. 40)?
COMMENT: The 4th kingdom was the Roman Empire (first emperor, 31 B.C.). Compared to the preceding kingdoms of gold, silver and brass, it exhibited the continuing tendency of man’s civilization under the invisible sway of the devil, to degenerate with regard to spiritual, moral and esthetic values, while at the same time increasing in misdirected military strength and technical capability to destroy (Exactly what the “toes of the image represent will be explained thoroughly in the next lesson.)
NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S MISTAKE – AND MADNESS
God first pictured the succession of world-ruling governments from Nebuchadnezzar’s time onward as a great imposing image of a man. This civilization was a product of man’s mind and heart (intelligence and emotions).
So proud was Nebuchadnezzar of the fact that he and his kingdom was its head, he erected in Babylon in honor of himself an actual image of gold, and commanded all the people to worship it or face the penalty of a fiery death (Dan. 3). However, Nebuchadnezzar was not allowed to remain in his haughty grandeur for long. He was suddenly cut down by God, and given the mind of a wild beast.
Let’s notice exactly what happened to King Nebuchadnezzar:
Did Nebuchadnezzar have a second dream which troubled him greatly (Dan. 4:4-5)? Could the magicians, astrologers, etc., interpret the dream (vs. 6-7)?
What was the dream (Dan. 4:10-18)? Who was the dream about (vs. 20-22)? What was going to happen to King Nebuchadnezzar (vs. 24-26)? What did Daniel urge the king to do so that the dream would not come to pass (v. 27)?
COMMENT: Note that the dream was given at first as a warning, with a chance for Nebuchadnezzar to repent and escape the dire punishment. God is always faithful to give man a chance to repent before He punishes.
How long was the king to live with the beasts of the field and eat grass like an ox, if he didn’t repent (v. 25)?
COMMENT: “Seven times,” in prophetic language, means seven years. Nebuchadnezzar was to live and act like a wild beast for seven literal years before his strange madness would pass.
Nebuchadnezzar, during his insanity, symbolized the real nature of the prophesied Gentile empires. No longer with any real understanding, cut off from God, ignorant of the purpose for man’s being on earth, these empires, like wild predator beasts, would fight and struggle, wage war, tear and devour, down through the centuries!
Since much of Biblical prophecy is dual, the seven years of Nebuchadnezzar’s personal punishment became a type of the duration of this world’s human governments and their wild beast-like ways. But in the antitypical fulfillment in the succession of human empires, each one the “seven times” becomes not a literal year, but a symbolic or prophetic year of 360 days, and each such “day” itself stands for a literal year according to the well-known principle given in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:4-6, which show that each symbolic day represents an actual year in fulfillment.
And so the “times” of God’s punishment on the Gentiles, allowing them to go their own way and reap the natural consequence of sin would last for a period of 2520 years (7 x360). During this time the world’s kingdoms would act like wild beasts until they, too, finally learn as Nebuchadnezzar did, that God rules in the affairs of men.
THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
One of the most interesting revelations of the entire panorama of prophecy is found in the fifth chapter of Daniel. It also concerns the duration of the Gentile world empires which had been revealed previously.
Nebuchadnezzar had suffered a punishment for “seven times (years).” Yet his kingdom was kept safe while he was insane (Dan. 4:26, 36), after which he resumed his rule until his death. Following this, several other kings reigned and died (Jer. 27:6-7).
Did the time finally come for this first phase of world government to end, and for the kingdom to be transferred to the Medes and Persians (Dan. 5:30-31)? Did the still unsuspecting King Belshazzar that very night make a great feast for his lords and ladies (vs. 1-4)? Then what happened (vs. 5-6)?
shecould Daniel (v. 17)? Be sure to read this entire chapter.
What was the writing and its meaning (vs. 25-28)?
COMMENT: God inspired Daniel to reveal that the strange writing, “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin “was a sentence – a judgment. Mene was a word which meant “numbered” (v. 26). Tekel meant “weighed” (v.27). And peres (the root of the word upharsin) meant “divided” (v. 28).
So Daniel interpreted these words to mean that Belshazzar’s Chaldean Empire had received a divine sentence. Its days were “numbered.” It had been “weighed in the balances,” by God. And it was soon to be “divided” up among its enemies, the Medes and Persians!
This prophecy, however, like most of Bible prophecy, is dual. It not only referred to Belshazzar’s kingdom and its impending doom; it also refers to the entire Babylonish system and its final destruction at Christ’s return (Dan. 2:34, 44)!
The fact that the word mene is used twice in the strange message suggests its meaning and significance for today, we must do as the words themselves instruct us, we must “number,” “weigh” and “divide.” Here is how it may be done.
Each one of these words is a Hebrew measurement of weight. According to the message, we first “number” (add up or count up) these units of weigh and “divide” (meaning of the word peres) them into gerahs – the smallest unit used by the Hebrews. A meme is the well-known maneh, which equaled 50 shekels. Tekel was simply the Babylonian spelling of the Hebrew shekel. Perasin Hebrew usage meant half a maneh, or 25 shekels. And each “shekel of the sanctuary” was itself equal to and may be “divided” into 20 gerahs (Ex. 30:13), the smallest unit of weight among the Hebrews.
One mene = 50 shekels = 1000 gerahs; another mene = 50 shekels = 1000 gerahs; half a mene (peras) = 25 shekels = 500 gerahs; a tekel = 1 shekel = 20 gerahs; Total 2520 gerahs.
Adding them all up, the number of gerahs is 2520 – the number of years God’s sentence on this Babylonian system!
You may notice that the translators mistakenly supplied the word shekel in I Kings 10:16 and II Chron. 9:15-16 instead of bekah which is only half as much. This has caused many to misunderstand the value of the shekel!
THE VISION OF FOUR BEASTS
Another revealing prophecy concerning world governments was given to Daniel. It is found in chapter seven.
What was the description of the four “beasts” God showed Daniel in vision (Dan. 7:3-7)? Did these four beasts clearly represent four consecutive bestial-minded, world-ruling kingdoms that were to arise (vs. 17, 23)?
COMMENT: The word “King” is synonymous with kingdom, as is clearly shown in verses 17 and 23.Therefore Daniel 7 reveals that these “beasts” – wild animals which came into view one “after another” (vs. 5-7) – symbolizes consecutive world governments or world empires.
Was the first beast (kingdom or empire) like a lion (which is often called the “king of the beasts”) and like an eagle (the “king” of birds) (v. 4)? Did it have a man’s heart (mind) – same verse?
COMMENT: This beast corresponds to the “head of gold “of the figure Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream – the Chaldean Empire. When Nebuchadnezzar recovered his senses, the heart (mind) of a man again replaced his “beast” heart (Dan. 4:16, 34). However, his kingdom did not continue. Some years later, in the days of his grandson Belshazzar, the Chaldean kingdom was overthrown and replaced by the Medo-Persian Empire, as we already learned.
What manner of beast symbolized the Medo-Persian Empire (Dan. 7:5)?
COMMENT: The bear is notorious for its ponderous and unpredictable action, for crushing and devouring its prey. This bear devoured three kingdoms – Babylon, Lydia and Egypt – represented by the “three ribs.”
What animal represented the third “beast” kingdom (v. 6)?
COMMENT: The leopard is swift. This one was even swifter than usual, being pictured with four wings with which it skimmed over the ground. Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire in a lightning- like advance across Asia that the slow-moving Persians could not counter.
But Alexander lived only a short time after completing his swift conquest. Four of his generals divided his vast empire into four regions: Macedonia and Greece, Thrace and Western Asia, Syria and territory east to the Indus River, and Egypt. Therefore this beast is pictured as having four heads, each of which perpetuated Greek culture.
Was the fourth beast – the Roman Empire – “dreadful and terrible (looking) and strong exceedingly; and diverse (different) from all the beasts that were before it (Dan. 7:7, 23)? Notice the words “devour the whole earth” in Dan. 7:23. Now compare these verses with Daniel 2:40.
COMMENT: The Roman Empire, which the fourth beast represents, began at Rome, then spread out and gradually absorbed – “devoured and brake in pieces” – the four heads (divisions) of the preceding Grecian kingdom, occupied most of their territory, and conquered large additional areas in Africa and Europe. (The significance of the “ten horns” of the fourth beast will be covered in the next lesson.)
THE RAM AND THE HE-GOAT
Another amazing prophecy was revealed to Daniel in a vision (Dan. 8:1) in which he saw the rise of the Medo-Persian Empire and its destruction by the king of Greece.
What symbol did God used to portray for Daniel the dual monarch of the Medo-Persian Empire (Dan. 8:3-4, 20)?
COMMENT: The ram was a common Persian symbol. Ancient Persian coins picture the head of a ram on one side, and a ram reclining on the other. In the vision, the horns and “pushiness” of the ram illustrated a characteristic feature of the Persian regime.
The horn which came up first represented the Medes, who had a major part in the destruction of Nineveh and Assyria a century earlier. The second horn, which came up highest, represented the Persians who later became more important than the Medes and dominated the empire.
Who attacked the ram as Daniel watched (vs. 5-7, 21)?
COMMENT: The Greek or Aegean lands, surrounding the Aegean Sea, which was believed to have received its name from the Greek word for “goat,” are here symbolized. A he-goat is just as stubborn, but more active, than a ram. This goat, representing the attack of Alexander the Great (v. 21), moved so fast he seemed not to touch the ground (v. 5). He broke the two horns of the ram (the Medo-Persian monarch) and stamped it into the ground.
When the he-goat became very great, what happened to its horn (Alexander) (v. 8)? How many horns took its place (vs. 8, 22)?
COMMENT: These four horns were the government of Macedonia, Thrace, Egypt and Syria (including most of the territory of the old Persian Empire) under Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy and Seleucus, respectively. This fourfold division of Alexander’s empire was not finalized until 301 B.C., over 200 years after Daniel’s death!
Later, in 281 B.C., Seleucus overthrew Lysimachus and completely controlled the North. Thereafter the two dominant areas of the empire were the Kingdom of the South under the Ptolemies, and the Kingdom of the North under the Seleucidae (Dan. 11).The struggles between these two kingdoms, and other events actually extend down to our day – this 21st century-- and are described in Daniel 11, which is the longest prophecy in the Bible. Suffice it to say here that Rome later swallowed up, took the place of, and for the purposes of this prophecy, became the “king (dom) of the north.”
Did the vision of Daniel 8 also extend to the second coming of Christ (vs. 23-25)? The expression “Prince of princes” in verse 24 refers to Christ.
Out of one of the four divisions (specifically, out of the “king (dom) of the north,” the kingdom which was continued by the Roman Empire mentioned above), was a “little horn” to rise (vs. 9-11)?
COMMENT: This will be explained further in the next lesson. But notice here that partially and in type the prophecy of the “little horn” was fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes, “king of the north” (175-163 B.C.).
More than just a king, this man was a great religious leader. He called himself by the name Epiphanes, meaning “god made visible.” His wicked deeds are recorded in Daniel 11:31. According to various historical accounts, he entered the Jewish sanctuary at Jerusalem, polluted it with an idol, and offered swine’s blood on the altar of God. He required all to support this unclean sacrifice, persecuted the Jewish religion, and burned the scrolls of the Law – all a type of what another is prophesied to do in our end-time!
JOHN’S VISION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
Now let’s move along to the Roman Empire itself, and to the times of the New Testament. The apostle John, in his later years, was given a series of visions in which he saw this mighty empire pictured symbolically – its future fall-- resurrections and final destruction.
The knowledge of this empire is so important to the people of God, which the Bible deals with in great detail, because the prophetic “beast” is to exist once again in our time!
What was the description of the composite beast God showed John in vision (Rev. 13:1-2)?
COMMENT: Here, again, is described a very strange and mysterious looking animal! God showed John a symbolic beast which looked as though it were composed of three different animals – a lion, a leopard, and a bear. It included the most powerful parts of the very animals by which God had pictured the Chaldean, the Persians and Grecian empires to Daniel. Therefore the beast John saw here represented the characteristics of all these empires in one!
When Daniel wrote – about 650 years before John’s vision --three of the four empires pictured by the four beasts had not yet come to power. But by the time of John’s vision -- about 96 A.D. – all of these world empires, except one, had existed and fallen. Therefore, the beast John saw represented specifically the fourth empire then extant – the Roman Empire --which had swallowed up all vestiges of the other three, conquering and occupying their former territories.
The Roman Empire was the greatest war-making machine the world had ever seen, for it had the strongest part of the “lion,” the Head and jaws; it had all the massiveness and power of the most powerful part of the “bear,” the legs; and it possessed the swiftness, the cunning, and the cruelty of Alexander’s army, symbolized by the body of the “leopard.”
Notice further proof of the identity of this mysterious-looking beast:
How many heads and horns did this beast have (Rev. 13:1)?
COMMENT: The Roman Empire, represented by the beast John saw in Rev. 13, had absorbed and therefore included the three empires before it which were described in Daniel 7. Thus this beast was seen with all six heads of the first three beasts (including the four heads of the third beast), plus its own. So this beast of Rev. 13 has seven heads. It was the fourth beast Daniel saw, only, which had ten horns, and the beast John described had ten horns.
Therefore, if we allow the Bible to interpret the Bible, we must conclude that the beast of Rev. 13 is the Roman Empire. John like Daniel, pictured this beast, not as a religious institution, but as a powerful government having the beast, saying – “who is able to make war with him” (Rev. 13:4)?
Did one of the heads of this great beast receive a deadly wound (Rev. 13:3)? This wound was fatal! The head that was wounded died! But was the “deadly wound” healed – same verse?
COMMENT: For administrative ease, the sprawling Roman Empire was divided, first in 285 A.D., and permanently during the 4th century. There were then, in effect, Two “Roman” Empires, the Western with its capital at Constantinople. (This fact is also pictured by the two legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s great image described in Daniel 2.)
The Roman Empire in the west ceased to exist in the 5th century as a result of Germanic invasions. However, Emperor Justinian from the east “revived” the empire in 554 A.D. in what historians call the “Imperial Restoration.” From that time on, through successive revivals till the time of Napoleon, that empire continued to exist!
Was the devil the deadly motivating force which directed and empowered this strange-looking “beast” (Rev. 13:2; 12:9)?
COMMENT: The Roman Empire was one of the greatest of the political instruments through which the god of this world, Satan the devil (II Cor.4:4), has worked in deceiving and dominating mankind. For that reason Satan himself was represented to John as having seven heads and ten horns (Rev. 12; 3). And in the near future Satan will once more guide a final revival of this same political system which had its root beginnings in the ancient “Babylon “of Nimrod!
BEAST PERSECUTES GOD’S PEOPLE
After the beast’s “deadly wound” was healed, how long was it to continue (Rev. 13:5)? What principle did God reveal which enables us to determine the length of this symbolic period of time (Ezk. 4:4-6 and Num. 14:34)?
COMMENT: Again, using the Biblical day –for-a-year principle, we find that “forty and two months” equal 1260 days (42 months x 30 days), or 1260 years – the length of time God allowed the “healed” beast to continue. Thus the beast continued in existence from its restoration in 554 A.D. to the fall of Napoleon in 1814.
During this time (the Middle Ages), did the “beast” have a great “mouth” which blasphemed God and everything holy (Rev. 13:5-6)? Did it also persecute and “make war” on true Christians and kill them (vs. 7:10)?
COMMENT: The early Romans (even before the day of the empire) had great reverence for the state. Then as the empire developed, the concept of emperor worship came to Rome from the eastern Mediterranean region, when deification of rulers had long been the custom. Animal sacrifices were performed to the honor of the emperor. His word became law in religious matters.
Regarding this emperor worship, Robinson’s Medieval and Modern Times, a college textbook, says:
“The worship of the emperor: In a word, the Roman government was wonderfully organized and everyone was required to join in the worship of the emperor because he stood for the majesty and the glory of the dominion. Thus, all were obliged, as good citizens, to join in the official sacrifices to the head of the state, as a god.”
The head of state, the Roman Emperor, was worshipped “as a god”! And thus the Roman world actually worshipped Satan who inspired the emperor and empowered the empire (Rev. 13:2, 4).
But the original Roman Empire fell. When it was later revived, it had changed. It had become a union of church and state! The “beast” – the empire continued on into the Middle Ages actually making war (v. 7) on God’s people, demanding that they worship only according to the dictates of the established state religion.
This revived Roman Empire was represented as the “Kingdom of God on the earth.” Those who refused to accept or endorse the new state religion were persecuted, systematically hunted down, and killed. Thus the beast’s “mouth as a lion” (v. 2) not only spoke blasphemies (vs. 5-6), claiming to be “God’s Kingdom” – but also devoured God’s servants as a figurative “lion,” being used of Satan the devil (compare I Peter 5:8).
But what of this religion which had allied itself with the beast? Was it also prophesied?
YET ANOTHER BEAST APPEARS
Did God, in vision, show John another “beast” (Rev. 13:11)?
COMMENT: Do not confuse this beast with the first beast of Rev. 13 which represents the civil Roman Empire.
What does this second beast appear to be “like” (Rev. 13:11)? What does a “lamb” symbolize in the Bible (John 1:29; Rev. 17:14)? But is this beast’s true character that of the devil (Rev. 13:11; 12:9)?
COMMENT: This beast is clearly a religious power masquerading as a lamb, claiming to represent Christ. It is not the United States as some erroneously assume. This beast began to arise in the days of the apostles (see II Cor. 11:13-15).
Was this second beast, this religious power, to utilize all of the power of the first beast before it – that is, all the power of the civil government of the Roman Empire (Rev. 13:12)? Did the second beast also cause the world to continue to worship the first beast – same verse?
COMMENT: The second beast, a great religious power, arose after the Roman Empire had dominated the empire, causing the people to continue the same pagan practices, as before, but now under the guise of “Christianity” (see II Cor. 11:13-15 once again). History tells us the emperors became subservient to the “new” religion. And the empire itself continued to be regarded as the “kingdom of God on the earth.”
But let’s understand how and when this second beast began to exercise the first beast’s power. Turn to and read Rev. 13:3. During the days of Emperor Constantine (313-337 A.D.), who first issued an “edict of toleration” which in effect put the emperor’s blessing on “Christianity,” the church began to grow in authority and power. The Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) bolstered that newly won power and millions of pagans began flocking into the ranks of the established church.
Then following the death of Constantine, Roman imperial authority in the Western Roman Empire, including the city of Rome began to weaken. But as that authority weakened, the bishop of Rome began to assume temporal power as well as spiritual rulership over the people of Italy (see Langer, Encyclopedia of World History, p. 123).
After the first beast, the Roman civil government received a “deadly wound” when the barbarians overran the Western Roman Empire and the city of Rome in the 5th century, this religious government increasingly became the only stable power to which the people of Italy could look. After the “deadly wound” was “healed” by Justinian’s restoration, government began, step-by-step, to achieve dominance over the civil empire.
Prior to 554 A.D., Justinian, emperor of the Eastern division of the Roman Empire, had written a letter to the bishop of Rome acknowledging that bishop’s supremacy over the leaders of the church in other regions: “It having been at all times our great desire to preserve the unity of your apostolic chair, and the constitution of the holy churches. Therefore we have made no delay in subjecting and uniting to your holiness all the priests of the whole East. We cannot suffer that anything which relates to the state of the church, however manifest and unquestionable, should be moved without the knowledge of your holiness, who is the head of all the holy Churches: for in all things as we have already declared, we are anxious to increase the honor and authority of your apostolic chair” (Codex Justinianus, lib. I, tit. I).
About the same time, Justinian also wrote to Epiphanius, bishop of Constantinople, referring to the bishop at Rome as the “head of all bishops and the true and effective corrector of heretics” (George Croly, The Apocalypse of St. John. P. 170).
Justinian then set about making his state religion supreme in the East (now called the Byzantine Empire), and uprooting the barbarian kingdoms of heretical Arian belief which had been established on former Roman soil. It is said that Justinian thought of himself as a second Constantine in thus exalting the power of the Roman Church.
It should be noted here that the bishop of Rome also received political authority; he became a “king” over a considerable portion of Central Italy which was thereafter known as the Papal States. This political government was symbolized by one of the second beat’s “two horns” (Rev. 13:11). Now notice the meaning of the second horn.
RELIGIOUS GOVERNMENT BASED ON CIVIL PATTERN
Did the second beast of Rev. 13 make an “image” of the first beast (v. 14)? Notice what this “image” of the first beast really is:
COMMENT: According to the dictionary, an image is a “copy, representation, model, semblance, counterpart.” It is a “likeness.”
So here were religious leaders making an image – a model, a copy of the civil Roman government! They pattern their ecclesiastical government after the most efficient political government they knew, after the Roman civil government, with its provinces, etc.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “The Roman Church as a whole preserves in the spiritual sphere the spirit and much of the organization of the Roman Empire, so (also) the administration of the Curia carries on the tradition of Roman government” (11th ed. Art. “Roman Catholic Church”). Much the same thing might be said of its college of cardinals who are the “princes and senator of the Church.”
In this article “Church History,” the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica speaks further of “the metropolitan system, or the grouping of the churches of a province under a single head, who was usually the bishop of the capital city. The (Roman) Church thus followed in its organization the political divisions of the empire. Canon 12 of the Council of Chalcedon (541 A.D.) forbids more than one metropolitan see in a province: also canon 17 of the same council: ‘And if any city has been or shall hereafter be newly erected by imperial authority, let the arrangement of ecclesiastical parishes follow the political and municipal forms.’”
States Myer’s Ancient History, page 582: “the church set up, within the Roman Empire, an ecclesiastical state (or government) which, in its constitution and its administrative system, was shaping itself upon the imperial model.”
As prophecy foretold, so history relates that during the days of the Roman Empire, a religious system grew strong, prevailed, and made a government model, a religious counterpart, an “image” of the civil Roman Empire. Thus the second “horn” of the second beast of Rev. 13 refers to its religious government.
What was the second beast prophesied to cause to be done to those who would not “worship” (serve, reverence, honor) the “image” it had made of the first beast (Rev. 13:15)?
COMMENT: This was done by condemning religious opponents for “heresy,” then turning them over – it was termed “relaxing them” – to the civil authority (that of the emperor) for punishment!
DANIEL’S LITTLE HORN
What was prophesied to come up among the ten horns of the fourth beast in Daniel’s vision (Dan. 7:8, 20)? What did it do to God’s saints – true Christians (Dan. 7:21)? Was this “horn” somehow different – more durable than the other ten horns (v. 20)?
COMMENT: This extra horn, which was not one of the ten horns but came up among them, represents the same religious power or government of the “second beast” described in the Rev. 13. The ten horns, as we will see in the next lesson, represented successive revivals of the civil Roman government.
While speaking great things against God Almighty, did this “little horn” even claim authority to change God’s “times and laws” (Dan. 7:25)? What is one major “time and law” that has been changed (Ex. 20:10 – note the word “seventh.”)
THE “MARK” OF THE BEAST
What did the second beast of Rev. 13 cause people to receive in their foreheads and right hands (Rev. 13:16-17)? What was this “mark”? See comment.
COMMENT: The original Roman Empire, by authority of Emperor Constantine, had required empire-wide observance of Sunday, the day of the sun, the first day of the week. It was a requirement of the civil government of the empire, the “beast,” and thus became a sign or “mark” of the people of the Roman Empire.
Is the seventh-day Sabbath called the “sign” of the true people of God (Ex. 31:13-17)? But did the religious government – the second beast of Rev. 13 accept instead and further the “mark” of the beast, the observance of the day of the sun (Rev. 13:16-17 once again)?
COMMENT: Thus the “mark” of the beast stands identified as the observance of Sunday as the day of rest and worship! Sunday observance was imposed on the Roman world by the emperor of the “beast,” and thus became its “mark.” All residents of the empire were forced to conform, whereas previously only the worshippers of Mithra, whose cult was imported into the Roman Empire from the East, and those who professed a counterfeit form of Christianity (II Cor. 11:13-15) observing both Saturday and Sunday, had taken any notice of Sunday observance.
THE”NUMBER” OF THE BEAST
What else besides the “mark” would qualify people to buy or sell in the kingdom of the beast, the Roman Empire (Rev. 13:17)? What is this mysterious number (v. 8)?
COMMENT: One had in some way to bear the “mark,” the “name” or the “number” of the beast in order to conduct business, to “buy and sell.” Notice that this mysterious number, 666, is the number of the beast’s name. It is also the number of a man. We are told to count this number, that is, add it up. Here is how that may be done.
Most of us are familiar with Roman numerals. Instead of our present system of Arabic numbers, the ancient Romans used letters as numbers. But many do not know that the Greek language, in which this numeric identification in the book of Revelation was written, also used alphabetical letters for numbers, the same letters that were used for spelling word and names.
Now the name of the beast was “Roman” or “Latin.” Originally, the city of Rome was settled by the people known as Latins. The Latins received their name from their original ancestor founder and king, Lateinos. His name, the name of a man, also became the name of the people – Latin.
The Greek values of the letters composing the word Lateinos – Latin are as follows: L is 30, A is 1, T is 300, E is 5, I is 10, N is 50, O is 70, S is 200.These numbers add up to exactly 666! The expression, “the Latin kingdom,” as written in Greek also adds up to the same total. Thus, the “number” of the “beast” of Revelation further identifies the beast as the Roman Empire!