The fourth beast of Daniel’s vision is the Roman Empire at it height. Why did Daniel puzzle over this one beast above all the others? The answer lies in understanding the impact of Rome upon the ancient world and the political and religious seeds sown since that time upon Europe and the nations. The impact of the Roman empire on history and Bible prophecy is the story of the modern world. Understanding this fourth beast is a key to understanding today’s headlines.
[Darris McNeely] Good to see all of you out tonight, those of you that are online, welcome, glad to have you. It’s been a while it seems since I’ve been up here for any of these but Gary Petty started things off with the book of Daniel. Last week we’re in a series where we are talking about lessons from the prophet Daniel. And so tonight we’re going to be talking about what is I think a very fascinating part of that.
So, before we begin we need to ask God’s blessing, so I’ll just let you remain in your seats, I won’t ask you to rise and we’ll ask God’s blessing on the study tonight: Great God, thank You very much for the opportunity we have to gather here in midweek and have a Bible study and reflect on a portion of Your word that is very important, the writings of the prophet Daniel. And the understanding that those prophecies you gave to that man long ago continue to resonate into the modern world, helping us to understand many aspects of your purpose and your plan, but also make sense out of today’s world and what is happening and what lies ahead. So, we ask for Your guidance and Your help to be with us, and your Spirit to lead tonight’s study, pray that it would help all of us, Father, to better understand and to discern the times in which we live today. We thank you and we place this study into Your hands asking it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
All right. Well, this is a series on the prophet Daniel and we’re doing a little different approach to this in that the presenters have taken a particular portion out of the book of Daniel, we’re not going through the entire book sequentially. And we will not be covering every aspect of the book of Daniel. We elected, I think, to do about six different programs on this.
This first one that I’ve elected to do is called, “The Truth of the Fourth Beast” and as we move along through it you will perhaps understand my particular fascination with this part. We’re going to kind of zero in on just a few verses out of the book of Daniel and then zoom forward into the book of Revelation, but in the process we’re going to understand something that existed a long, long time ago and a galaxy far, far away called the Roman Empire, and how that understanding can help us to appreciate certain things that are taking place in today’s world. And again, the light of what we understand from Bible prophecy about events that are yet to occur before the return of Jesus Christ. So, let’s go ahead and get into it.
As we jump into this, let me just turn right to the operative verse that we are talking about with this, which is Daniel 7:19 Daniel 7:19Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;
American King James Version×. This is a section which we’ll come back and just kind of zero into the one verse whereas Daniel had a dream of several beasts that rose up out of the sea, there was one that he focused on. And he said, “I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful,” and this fourth beast is something that Daniel just kind of zeroed in on in his dream and in his recollections of it as God inspired him to write it down.
And when I first, I guess, really noticed this, you know, there are some scriptures that you read through as you may be reading a book of the Bible or you’re trying to read through the Bible and a reading plan through the year, and sometimes we speed read, sometimes we’ll fall on certain verses that might kind of catch our attention, depending, you know, maybe something out of Psalms or Proverbs because of what might be going on in our life. When I began teaching the book of Daniel at the Ambassador Bible College a few years ago, and then going into it in more detail to be able to teach it, this is a verse that I focused on. And I’m wondering, why did he want to know the truth about the fourth beast? What was it about the fourth beast that drew Daniel’s attention to this? And the more I got into it and looked at it, and what is behind this fourth beast and Daniel’s fascination, I learned a lot. So I’ll try to impart some of that to you tonight.
One of the things that I have learned personally about Bible study is that when something kind of jumps up at you like that out of the text, out of any part of the Bible, and you see that something is said that is a little bit out of the flow of a story, he wanted to know the truth. Why? Why was this one, as opposed to all the others, and why did Daniel focus in on this? He described it as having “…teeth of iron, nails of bronze, and it devoured, and it broke in pieces and it trampled the residue with its feet.”
Now, this is a ferocious, terrible beast that he’s seeing and he’s describing, teeth of iron, nails of bronze, this is one, one resilient tough beast that he is looking at as he describes it as the translation puts it here. Before we go deeper into it, let’s talk a minute about Daniel and something about his character, and what we learned from other places in the text about this prophet. Daniel was a fascinating individual in Scripture. He first caught my attention because you’re introduced to Daniel as a young man. And I remember reading about it as a young man and you can relate to that if you read the story of David with a sling taking down Goliath as a young man, and you read that in the strength of your youth, you kind of try to identify with that.
Well, with Daniel, he’s always held a fascination for a lot of us, me in particular. But when we look at what is said about this man it causes it to stand out even more because Daniel is known from what we see in the Scripture, for his understanding and wisdom of the events of the world of his day and Daniel was living in what we call today, know as the Middle East. He was living in the area that is today the modern city of Iraq because he lived in Babylon that is where this nation of Iraq is today. We read about Iraq, we invaded Iraq a few years ago, broke that government and essentially broke that nation and a lot of the story of that region since 2003 has been trying to kind of put it back together again after the U.S. led invasion in 2003.
But Daniel wanted to understand what was taking place in that world at that time, he had a worldview that put God in charge of history and the events that were taking place. And that’s critical to understand about Daniel and it helps us to understand the worldview that you and I must adopt as we seek to understand our world today and that is that God is in control of history and events. If we keep that in mind, and we should if we believe the Bible and it is our guide, then Daniel gives us kind of a compass or a template of an individual to look at. In chapter 5 of Daniel verse 11, this is the famous story of the handwriting on the wall at the feast of Belshazzar, and the handwriting appears, you know, the disembodied hand comes and starts writing across the wall and everybody loses their supper that night, okay, and nobody can interpret it.
And the dowager Queen Mother comes in, Belshazzar’s grandmother and she says something, said, “Well, you know, all of your sycophants here, your court jesters, magicians and astrologers, they don’t know beans.” But she says, “In your grandfather’s day, there’s a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God.” And this is coming from a pagan Queen, and she remembered and she knew Daniel. And she said… he’d kind of been forgotten. She said, “In the days of your father,” and speaking of his grandfather who was Nebuchadnezzar, “light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him… an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles and explaining enigmas.”
When you are able to explain an enigma it’s like the having the ability to untie a troublesome knot of a problem that nobody else can figure out, Daniel could do that. She says all this was found in Daniel, a man in “whom is the Spirit of the Holy God,” it’s quite a witness, quite a testimony, but it speaks to his character. And that’s why he is held up as one of the more righteous of the characters of the Old Testament period; this young Jewish man taken to Babylon in his youth and living out his years as far as we know in the courts of Babylon and then later Persia. And so, the character that he had to me is something to try to emulate and to use as an example as we seek to figure out our own world today and the events that are taking place in shaping world events, you know, in a rather chaotic strange world that is right before our eyes, changing in many, many different ways.
Daniel helps us to take a view that sees God in control of events and things that are taking place there at this time. Let’s get a bit of a context before we go back to Daniel 7. Let’s remember something that we are told, when Daniel interprets this dream for Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2, very briefly, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, he calls in ultimately his astrologers and magicians, they could not even tell him what he dreamed much less the interpretation of it. And so, finally, Daniel comes in after a bit of intrigue where Nebuchadnezzar starts to lop off the heads of the wise men and Daniel wanting to live long and prosper says, “Whoa, wait a minute. We can get this all figured out.” And he and his friends pray to God and God gives the interpretation, Daniel goes in and he tells the King without having been told what he had dreamed.
He said “you had this big image and it had a head of gold,” and he said, “you’re that head of gold.” And he said “that after you will come an Empire of silver, the chest and arms of that image were of silver, representing another Empire.” And then he said “after that there’s going to be another Empire who’s represented by the belly and thighs of bronze. And then a fourth that is composed of iron and it’s going to have two legs, and the feet are going to be a unique mixture and combination of iron and clay.” And so it’s a continuation of the two legs of solid iron but a different configuration.
And what Daniel is basically explaining to Nebuchadnezzar is a flow of world history from the time of Babylon in the 6th century, where he is, all the way to the timing of the return of Jesus Christ, that’s the end of Daniel’s interpretation of this dream that Nebuchadnezzar has. He describes a stone cut without hands striking this image on his feet, and shattering it and scattering it to the four winds. But this is understood to be, and by biblical scholars who take the Bible for what it says and believe that it is the prophetic word of the Bible, that this is an image or a dream that shows world history through four great empires; beginning with Babylon, leading to Persia, then to the Greek Empire or the bronze, and then finally an empire of iron, which is understood to be Rome. This is chapter 2.
Now, in chapter 7 of Daniel, we have a dream that Daniel has. Chapter 2 is a dream that Nebuchadnezzar has, chapter 2 is a dream that Daniel has and it comes near the end of the time of the Babylonian Empire. Chapter 7, chronologically really should fall right after chapter 4 or chapter 5 as the feast of Belshazzar on the night that Babylon falls to the Persian kingdom. Chapter 7 comes obviously a little bit later, but chronologically the setting is before the fall of Babylon.
Daniel has this dream of four beasts that rise up out of the sea. Now, there’s more detail that is given and a bit different imagery than that of Chapter 2 and the interpretation of this giant image of Nebuchadnezzar. But again, what we’re seeing is a description with more detail of these same four empires: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. As I’m teaching this to the A.B.C. students all the time, I keep going over Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome to kind of get the flow of it so everybody knows exactly how… at least the sequential order of this.
Now, let me mention just at the outset that the interpretation of this dream in chapter 7 and also Daniel 2, are two the critical episodes of the book of Daniel. The interpretation of these empires is one that is held in general by conservative biblical scholars, as I mentioned, who take the Bible as the Word of God, who believe in predictive prophecy that there is a God who foretells the future through the Bible in prophetic utterances through His servants. And they… most of the conservative scholars and a few interesting ones, which I’ll mention later, hold to this Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome as the different empires of Daniel 2 and of what we see here. Let’s look at what we find in Daniel chapter 7, we’re in verses 3 and 4.
He sees these “four beasts that come up out of the sea” representing the nations of the world and they’re “each different from the other. The first is like a lion,” and you see a depiction of it here having an “eagle’s wings.” Daniel says, “I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.” I’m not going to go into all the details of these here tonight but the first one is understood to be Babylon.
Now, he saw a second beast, “Suddenly,” in verse 5, “another beast,” came, “a second, like a bear. He was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise and devour much flesh!’” This bear represents the Persian Empire and it has three ribs in its mouth, I’m not, again, going to go into all the details of this, you can come to A.B.C. and take my class and we’ll go through that in more detail than you ever knew was available on this. But this represents a description of the Persian Empire, which is very apt, it was a very large, lumbering powerful empire that of the Persians, Persia twice tried to invade and… they twice invaded and tried to destroy Greece. And both times they failed and they had to retreat back to the Asian mainland, which is an interesting story in and of itself, but they were quite large.
It was actually a larger empire in terms of the landmass than that of Babylon. But a bear describes it quite nicely. Now there’s a third beast that Daniel sees, “like a leopard, and it had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.” Now, this third beast is recognized to be that of the Greek Empire under that legendary character, King Alexander the Great, who conquered the Persian Empire and conquered a lot of the known world at the time, all the way into what is modern-day India, down into Egypt.
And then died as a very young man back in Babylon before realizing all of his ambitions, although he did quite a bit within a very short period of time. He had a lightning-quick advance across the Middle East like a leopard, and that’s why the leopard is an apt descriptor for his empire and what he did, the four wings on his back represent the four heads. The division of Alexander’s Empire among four of his generals after his death, and that’s another part of the story that other parts of the book of Daniel go into. So, let’s look at the fourth beast now, this is the one we’re going to focus on. “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. And it had huge iron teeth; devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.”
So, it had fearsome-looking teeth and then 10 horns, those 10 horns represent various stages of this large beast like power. One thing you should understand about both Daniel and Revelation where you have this imagery of beasts and horns and heads without going into all of the details. Understand the beast, essentially as these four great empires, and the beasts that are mentioned are representative of at least one of those empires, and in Revelation, they are attached to this fourth beast of Daniel 7. But the horns and the heads are successive kingdoms that follow from that particular beast, in this case, the fourth beast, those 10 horns get further definition in the book of Revelation. But the four beasts and then there are different heads and horns that are the subsets and the different follow-on parts of what flow from those particular beasts here.
So, he sees this, he sees also something else, another horn coming up, a little one coming up among them. He says this as he was considering the horns that there was a little one that came up among them, “before whom the first three horns were plucked up by the roots. And there, in this horn, this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.” And so we’ve delineated that little horn by this red one that comes up before these three of the other horns, and it’s a distinctively different horn that is a part of this fourth beast and associated with it and speaking pompous words. Later in chapter 7 of Daniel in verses 20 and 21, further descriptors of this horn say that it “had eyes and a mouth that spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows. And I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to posses the kingdom.”
So, Daniel’s prophecy associates this little horn with pompous words and attacks upon the saints of God, which are the people of God, i.e. the Church. So, we can say that and leave it at that at this particular time, but it is speaking about a different type of power associated and among on this beast associated with it and a part of it but distinctly different. And it’s really speaking, to go ahead and say it, of a religious power that rails against the saints. Why would they be interested in the saints of God except that there was a connection to involving religion and the worship of God as opposed to a false God in all of this? And, so this is what Daniel sees here, okay?
So, if we can move forward here… oh, these things happen, technical glitches. My crack assistant runs to the front, okay, you’re going to have to stay right there. Okay. Let’s go back to the fourth beast. The fourth beast is understood to be Rome by the interpretation given to it by scholars, by those who study the Bible as I said and look to it as the Word of God and understand this flow of history beginning with Babylon down to that of Rome. Now, how do we know that?
From what we know in the Scripture, from history other than we and others, say that about this. There are certain interpretations, people will say that this fourth beast is actually Greece. And usually, those who say that say it because they cannot really come to believe that the book of Daniel was written as history in advance. And to do so would have to admit that there is a God who has the ability to be predicting prophecy, there’s a school of biblical criticism that puts Daniel having been written during the time of the Greek period, 400 years after the time of Babylon. That’s not the totally held view of scholars and it is not that of the Church of God and our historic understanding of the book of Daniel and this particular fourth beast.
How do we know that the fourth beast is Rome? There are several things to consider. One certainly is the statement of Jesus Christ himself in Matthew 24:15 Matthew 24:15When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)
American King James Version×where He talks about something called the abomination of desolation that was predicted to take place in the future, not in the past, and that comes out of the book of Daniel. The prophecy is written in the book of Revelation, also written later in the first century, also anticipate the future fulfillment of certain prophecies out of the book of Daniel. So, Christ believed that Daniel was a true character, predicting things that would take place in advance. And so, to understand Daniel having been writing this in advance of even the coming of the Roman Empire helps us to understand God’s ability to foretell the events in the future as He was doing through Daniel, and it’s then understood with those events that are prophesied in other parts of Daniel to be associated with that of Rome.
There’s one other interesting historical note apart from Scripture. The Jewish historian, Josephus actually believed and he was a historian that wrote… actually during the time of the first century, during the time of the early… Church in the first century he was a Jewish general that went over to the Roman side, he wrote a history of the Jews, which is very famous. But in his history, Josephus believed that Daniel had predicted the rise of Rome and the Roman destruction even of Jerusalem. There’s a quote out of the book of Josephus that goes like this, he said, “In the same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government and that our country, that of the Jews, should be made desolate by them.” And so Josephus knew the prophecy of Daniel and in his own day in the first century, he and his fellow Jews understood that Daniel prophesied that their country would be overrun by this power that was there now Rome, and would actually be made desolate by them.
And Josephus lived through those events even the desolation of Rome, and as he wrote his history he affirms that Daniel predicted that. And that’s a very critical key proof to help us understand that Daniel for his fourth beast then is this beast that is called Rome. Now there’s one other interesting tidbit that I can pass along, this is a more relevant… more present historian and individual of particular note. There was a book written a few years ago called, Europe: Today and Tomorrow, by a man named Joseph Ratzinger. And as he was talking about Europe he actually defines Europe what it is and he says that Europe can be understood being this broad, expansive region covered by the ancient Roman Empire, and he talks about it about having a theological interpretation of history, a theological interpretation of history as foretold by the prophet Daniel.
This was written by Joseph Ratzinger about maybe 15 to 20 years ago in this particular book called, Europe: Today and Tomorrow. Now, what’s even more interesting is that Joseph Ratzinger when he wrote this was a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church who became a Pope, all right? Pope Benedict XVI is Joseph Ratzinger. And I’ve always thought that when certain people of that eminent positions speak on matters like that you pay attention to how they view history, and Cardinal Ratzinger later the Pope believed that Daniel had a theological interpretation of history that foretold… that he foretold Rome.
So, how do we know that the fourth beast is Rome? Many others follow along with that and history helps us to understand that, which kind of gets us then into where we want to go next as we look at a little bit further into this to seek to understand Rome. Because, keep in mind what we just read in the opening… operative verse here tonight is Daniel looking at that fourth beast, and he said “I wanted to know the truth of that fourth beast.” Why?
What is it that we seek and need to understand? What is it that Daniel is telling us? How can we be sure that that fourth beast is Rome, and what does it mean for today? So, let’s look at a few things, we’re going to quickly look at about three different items here that will kind of draw points from Scripture to help us understand that as we go forward.
So, here’s a map that shows the extent of the Roman Empire during the first century, though just a brief history. The Roman Empire is something that began to grow out of that little boot or that nation of Italy in the third century B.C. Rome was a sleepy village on the Tiber River at one time about 500 B.C. but there was something unique about the people of Rome and what they eventually become… became. They gobbled up all their neighbors in their region of southern Italy and eventually the entire Peninsula, the Italian Peninsula, and that wasn’t enough for them. They jumped across to North Africa and they gobbled up the countries along North Africa, eventually all the way over to where you see there in Egypt.
And if we can bring up the extent of it here you see that in time they took over what was Greece, went into Spain, up into what is currently modern-day Europe, the nations of France and Germany and Austria, and parts of Eastern Europe were under the control of the Roman Empire, all the way down into the area of Saudi Arabia and large portions of the modern Middle East including Iraq, Syria, and Turkey today, all that was part of the Roman Empire.
If you look at our map, you will see that the Roman Empire extended from the deserts of Saudi Arabia all the way up to what is Great Britain today, during their day, Julius Caesar went into Great Britain and annexed it along with what was France, called Gaul at that time. And this was the extent of the Roman Empire at its largest extent, sometime early in the second century A.D. after the time of Christ and the apostles. The extent of the Roman Empire was basically locked in, they never conquered all of Europe, they didn’t go into Russia, they didn’t go into all the parts of current… the modern Iran or Iraq. They drew a line and they’d kind of locked it in.
By early… in the second century A.D., it was set at this point but it was quite a large diverse empire that stretched from, what currently Great Britain all the way to the area of Saudi Arabia. It lasted until the fifth century A.D., the classic date for the fall of the city of Rome is 476 A.D. I always ask students to remember that one day because it’s a critical one to history. But that’s when Rome fell to Germanic tribes that were pushing in and taking over parts of the Empire, there had been a very slow decline for several centuries within Rome, and it finally at least the empire in the West came to a close.
One thing you should understand, if you remember the two iron legs of Daniel’s image of chapter 2, we look at that part being Roman Empire then historically we understand that the Roman Empire at its height, eventually by the 300s, it became too unwieldy to be governed by one man and under Constantine the Great Christian Emperor, the Empire was divided into two. And the Capital in the West remained at Rome and he created by building a new city called Constantinople, it is modern-day Istanbul. That became the eastern capital of the empire and it was divided into two, which is where that image comes in of having two legs of iron.
When the city of Rome fell and the western part of the Empire in year 476 A.D., the Eastern Empire lived on, in fact, it continued on for roughly another 1,000 years before it too fell to the Ottoman Turks and came under control of the Muslim Turks. But the Western Empire is what we focus on and consider in terms of Bible prophecy and the continuation of what was at Rome and what had settled there, and then eventually morphed into a religious system that survived actually the fall of Rome.
When Rome fell in 476 A.D., what was the church at Rome that becomes known in history as the Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church was a very powerful force that had begun to absorb a lot of the external features of the Roman Empire in order to preserve itself and to continue to grow. In fact, this helps us also to understand something about how we understand that fourth beast to be that of Rome, the Roman Empire and then its follow-on successor, horns or heads or kingdoms that flowed from that after this particular fall.
If we can go on to the next slide, we look at Rome today, if you ever go there some of us have a few times and we have a Feast site over there in southern Italy that includes a tour to Rome. These are the ruins of the Forum in Rome as you see them today, and it speaks to the past glory of that Empire, this was the heart of the Empire. You could walk through it and use your imagination and a little bit of history to see that this was quite a monument to what had been built for nearly 1,000 years, nearly a millennium from the time that the Roman village began to expand and exert itself and expand to an empire until it fell, all of it was ruled from the heart… for the most part, right here out of the city of Rome.
The next slide will show that some of the remnants of the architecture, this is a remnant of a very famous Roman Road, kind of, the interstate system of their day that they built called the Appian Way. It’s south of Rome this particular section of it, you can see it and stand on it today. And it’s this road and over these very stones that the apostle Paul walked to Rome as a prisoner that we read about in the book of Acts. He went and took the Appian Way, the Appian Highway if you want to call it that up to the city of Rome as we are told in the book of Acts. These things have endured, they’re still there. They built an empire, they built a structure, a culture, an economic, legal structure that has endured, and that’s also something that’s important to understand regarding the biblical story.
The next slide will show just one more remnant of this, the arch of Constantine, which is right off the Forum in Rome today, a monument to its victories. In fact, on the inside of this particular arch, there’s a section that depicts the sack of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman armies in 70 A.D. when they destroyed Jerusalem. You can see that right on the inside of that one of those arches there that still remains as a testimony to their conquest in that case of Rome.
So, the next slide… then as we think about this and move forward, let’s go ahead on to the next slide. We come back to what we read earlier back in Daniel 7:20 Daniel 7:20And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spoke very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.
American King James Version×, which says, “there was another horn, a little one, coming up among” all of these other horns and before three of them. Our understanding of this little horn being a religious power surviving the decline and the collapse of what was in Rome and really the very heartbeat and the center of the Empire at that particular point in time. We began to get a picture of something that lasts beyond the fall of Rome.
There’s a scripture in Revelation 13 that talks about the image of the beast and the actual worship of that. If we can go on to the next slide we will focus just a little bit about the fall of Rome out of Revelation 13. When Rome fell in 476 A.D., this event is described in Revelation 13 by a statement that is in verse 3. Go ahead, put that to the next slide where it says this, “I saw that one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” Now, again, scholars will understand, biblical scholars and our understanding I think that even breaks it down a bit finer into a unique perspective on this, is that the reference here to the head being mortally wounded refers to the fall of the city of Rome and the Western Empire in 476 A.D. when there was… when it collapsed.
One historian, I like to follow equates the fall of Rome in 476 A.D. to being kind of like the internet going down today. The lights went out on culture and civilization in the West for a period of time and it would be like the internet going down today for us. If our internet went down right now we would really be in trouble, a lot of things would just grind to a halt, we would be reduced in a lot of abilities, economically and through communication, it would put us back. We hope that doesn’t happen, we don’t look for that to happen.
But understanding when Rome collapsed, a lot of culture and civilization collapsed at that time. But there was something that happened that continued on and it’s connected with that little horn that comes up among the other horns out in Daniel 7 that is showing itself to be something different. And when Revelation 13 talks about something that is called the image of the beast, we are seeing and having described to us, and we can study in history the fact that the Church actually began to take on the systems, the structure of the Roman Empire and survived and managed to keep things together at a certain level, kind of, a low energy, low wattage level for a period of time in the West.
Historian Will Durant puts it this way as he describes the collapse of Rome and the survival of the Church as they adopted the imagery of the Roman Empire. The Bishop of Rome became the Pontifex Maximus, which was a title for the Roman Caesar. The Roman Empire was run under the Caesars by the Roman Senate, that Roman Senate, its structure was transferred over to the Catholic Church and became known as the College of Cardinals.
This hierarchy of religious leaders became known as the College of Cardinals, and they select the Pope like the Senate would have selected the leader of the Roman Empire at one time and would have held that authority and delegated it then there. All through that structure, we see that being transferred over to the Church so that Historian Will Durant says that by Rome dying it gave birth to the Church. Very interesting statement that he doesn’t connect to what we read about in prophecy but with that understanding, we can appreciate what we’re seeing out of this fourth beast, and again, appreciate Daniel wondering at what has taken place there.
So, that’s one item. There’s a second that we should understand that is also connected with this verse in Revelation 13:3 Revelation 13:3And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
American King James Version×because it says that the deadly wound was healed, all right? First, it was mortally wounded, as if it had been mortally wounded meaning that it didn’t really… that it was mostly dead but not dead. And then that deadly wound was healed and the world marveled and followed the beast, this is Revelation 13.
Let’s look at another episode from history about 100 years after the fall of Rome. The empire in the East continues, there’s an emperor that comes on the scene named Justinian. Justinian sets out to recapture all of the other lands of the western empire and to reconstitute not only a political empire that had fallen but also under the name of the Christian religion because he’s technically the head of the Eastern Empire and the Church as well. He has a very good general named Belisarius, he sends him out with his troops.
They recapture parts of North Africa, Italy, Spain for the glory of the greater Roman Republic, and there’s a healing that takes place for a period of time. But Justinian does something else that’s important for us to appreciate in this story. Not only did he regain lands but Justinian did something else that I think is connected with this wound being healed. Justinian had a group of lawyers and he gave them a job, he said I want you to gather up all of the legal codes and the legal structure of a thousand years of the Roman Empire and the Roman rule and I want you to simplify it, put it in some books and into a code that makes sense.
And so they worked for several years and they came up with this huge, voluminous work called “Justinian…” that is known to us in history as “Justinian’s Code.” And that became a body of law, built upon the Roman law that in a sense was kind of ignored for a few hundred years, but sometime later in the medieval period in Italy and other parts of Europe they began to rediscover Justinian’s Code. And Justinian’s Code became in time the basis for the legal structure of the European states with kings, and queens, and Holy Roman Emperors, and Empires, and the squabbling of the French kings, and the German kings, but underneath their structure of governing structure was this code that Justinian had put together that was based in Roman law.
Now here’s what’s interesting about it, it is a system that is basically known as civil law as it has come down to the modern world. European law is based on civil law. If I can simplify it without getting into a legal lecture here, which is not my intent. It basically says this, “It’s good to be king, it’s good to be king.” The king is the head.
The king can take your land. The king can come and confiscate your property. The bureaucracy, a parliament, the governing body can take your land. The King is the final law. That’s known as civil law. Now, today, it doesn’t operate exactly like that but it’s very, very close.
Let me contrast that with the type of law that we in America live under today, we don’t live under civil law, we live under a form of law called Common Law or English Common Law. And the basic difference between the law that you and I have over us in the United States guaranteed by our Constitution and in part England had the same thing is this, the king can’t come and take your home.
In the year 1215, there were a group of barons in England that got really upset with King John, you remember King John from your Robin Hood? Walt Disney’s Robin Hood, mean, old King John, same guy, same guy. A group of barons said, “You know what? We’re going to make you sign this document King John.” It’s called the Magna Carta, in history, and basically, it says that you’re not above the law, you are subject to the law as well. And that was a really major step in Common Law and we inherited a lot of that.
There’s a reason that a lot of our civil matters today are put before a jury of our peers. In Europe, it’s put before judges and they rule based on a different approach. Essentially what Justinian put in place was a system and a law that favors the state or the king or the emperor or the caesar, or if I can put it another way, the beast. Now, today, in Europe there’s something called the E.U., and they have a European Parliament and they have a European bureaucracy. And what has been built over there over several decades is a bureaucracy of legalisms based on civil law, stemming out of the European structure and legacy that goes all the way back to the time of Justinian.
There’s a reason that those in Great Britain, at least 51% of them, wanted to get out of that, a year and a half ago and they voted to leave the E.U. They wanted to reclaim their own sovereignty because, under the structure of the E.U., sovereignty is given up to the state or a bureaucracy, a faceless bureaucracy today that gets into every little detail of life and regulating it, it may not be necessarily today a king. The Bible prophecy shows us in Revelation 13 and 17 that there will be a figure that will arise, that will assume those powers, and the point is, that he will have the ability to build on a system that has been in place there bequeath from Justinian’s time that favors autocracy rather than the people.
Be glad we live in the English-speaking lands and especially in America today under the system that we have. There’s a reason that England pulled out of that a year and a half ago. Did you know? I’ve read this just recently, the Brexit of 2016 that they’re still going through is not the first Brexit, in the year 410, 410 A.D., Great Britain was under Rome, I showed you the map. They were part of the Roman Empire. In 410 the people in Britain petitioned the government in Rome to leave the Roman Empire, Brexit, 410 A.D.. They didn’t like it then, they don’t like it today, or at least 51% of them don’t. They’ve been dancing around with Rome, Europe for a long, long period of time, it’s very interesting part of the story here.
When we read in Revelation 13 about a system that is built up where there is two beasts, two figures who rise in the time of the end, we are looking at two… a religious and a political leader. And the power of that first beast to assume such high-handed, autocratic, even dictatorial methods, the groundworks already being laid. Why do we marvel at the fourth beast? Why do we think that that fourth beast is Rome? If we study history and if we know our history it’s a no-brainer, we don’t have to get caught up in some other types of ideas.
After Justinian there was another interesting event that we should know, and it’s the year 800, 800 A.D., on Christmas Day, Pope Leo III who is represented by this figure right here puts a crown on the head of a German king by the name of Charlemagne or Charles the Great, becomes in history known as Charles the Great, Charlemagne. And you have a wedding of Church and State that takes place that survived for a long period of time, another 1,000 years roughly in Europe in various forms, primarily what is called the Holy Roman Empire. And this particular set of statues and frieze is on the palace of Charlemagne, and the German city of Aachen today, it pictures perfectly what we see in Revelation 13 of the Church and the State working in tandem, feeling that they represent Jesus Christ on earth. This figure is Christ seated holding a globe with the Christian cross over it, symbolizing Christianity’s dominance over the world theoretically.
But these two figures kneeling at the foot of Christ are showing to be the instruments by which Christ is ruling on the earth today through this combination of Church and State that has this new birth in 800 A.D., and depicts exactly what we read in Revelation 13, and 17, and 18 of two beasts, of religious and political structures who wield extraordinary power in the time of the end. We marvel and should marvel and seek to understand the mystery of that fourth beast because it has dominated European and world history immensely in throughout the years and even still does down to this day. So, what developed out of the fourth beast was a combination of Church and State that is set in Europe, and it’s been a very key feature of world civilization since the time of Rome that ties it all together there.
There’s one other point that I want to take us to, in Revelation 18, the culmination of the system that eventually takes on the name of Babylon mystery the great in Revelation 17 that by the accounts in those scriptures are describing an economic, global economic structure the likes the world has never seen that will come to an end but not before it has run its course in the period right before the return of Christ.
In the first few verses of Revelation 18 there’s a shopping list of what this system, this global economic system trades in, and it’s gold, and silver, and spices, and furs, and all of the things that we would relate to not only in history but we could put in modern things today like oil, technology, precious metals, and the such. And when this system declines, we are told here that “the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her,” this decline of Babylon “for no one buys their merchandise any more.”
And one other thing it says at the end of this shopping list that they trade and they deal in is the “bodies and the souls of men.” The bodies, and souls of man. I didn’t understand this until just a few years ago, through again, reading a bit of history and understanding about Europe and understanding something about how all of this has gone out in the world today. Let me sketch something for you that illustrates something that has impacted the Americas, North American, our history. About 500 years ago navigators set out from first, Portugal and then Spain, to circumnavigate the world, to colonize, to begin to set up a flow and a stream of wealth and riches coming back into Spain, Portugal and ultimately into the other nations of Europe.
One of the features of that trade system is something that was called the slave trade, and this map illustrates it right here. Empty ships would set out from Europe, various nations up here, including at one time Great Britain, and they would go down to the west of Africa, you know what they would take on there, slaves.
They would make the passage across the Atlantic Ocean and they would drop them in South America, the islands of the Caribbean and even into Charleston and Savannah and North America. They would drop their human cargo off, sell them, take on products: cotton, rum, sugarcane, and other products from all of these places, make the passage back across to Europe and sell them there. And this entire cycle would repeat itself. And this went on for a long period of time. It went on into other parts of the world in terms of commerce and a global world that was built up.
It was quite an interesting situation that developed, this is the remnants of one slave plantation just outside of Charleston and South Carolina today that testifies to that, you know, at least the early North American involvement in that system that eventually was shut down. Great Britain shut it down, we had to fight a civil war to finally end it in America, but when you understand this about our history, the history of Europe and you go back to this and you go back to that statement in Revelation 18 that this system called Babylon, that we equate with this fourth beast, the final configuration of that fourth beast through the European structure. When we look at what happened over a 500-year period, beginning in let’s say roughly 1500 A.D. until the late 20th century, our times, 500 years to take that wealth, commerce, and goods. Similar to what we read about in Revelation, Revelation 18, flowed into Europe from all over the world. Europe, and when you and I go to the palaces of France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, ever been to any grand palaces in those countries? Yeah, I have several times.
You see the crowns, you see the gold, you see the art, you see what was, understand this, that was built upon the backs of men and women. Historians estimate that in that 500 years, to build Europe, the Europe we like to go see, the Europe that is, at least 100 million people died to build Europe through wars, through oppression, through plague, through famine. And all of the stories we read about whether in the Americas or in Africa or in Asia, a 100 million people died to feed these empires and these royal families that we call Europe, God calls it Babylon; the bodies and souls of men.
Why did Daniel wonder the mystery of the fourth beast? Why should we seek to understand that and its implication for our world today and what is taking place as we seek to detect and understand our times and when and how certain of these prophecies will come to pass? And we look to places like Europe and the Middle East, and we watch America’s involvement and its ebb and flow of its relationships with these parts of the world and take a broad view and try to be like Daniel. To have light and wisdom and understanding and to be guided by God’s Holy Spirit, to come to understanding of our world so that we are ready and not caught unawares when events take place like a thief in the night?
Well, if we would be a little bit like Daniel and if we would marvel at the fourth beast and seek to understand that, then we might be a bit more astute and aware of our world. And I think that it might also motivate us to look deeper into all the other parts of the Bible that tell us how to live a godly life and a righteous life and to be about our Father’s business. And to be like a Daniel who survived and kept his righteousness in the midst of the Babylon of his day, while we seek to walk the streets and the events and the places of a modern Babylon that’s in front of us right now and an even greater system that is to come that we are warned to not be a part of or be deceived by.
So let’s, in our own minds as I’ve tried to trace the line of this, seek to know the truth about the fourth beast and why Daniel did, and appreciate the legacy of understanding that God has given to us and preserve it but go deeper into it to understand our world today.
So, I appreciate all of you coming, and wish you well, be safe as you travel home tonight. We’ll have our next Bible study in two weeks, Steve Myers will be conducting the next part of the series on the book of Daniel. So, good night everyone.