Europe and the Church, Part 5: The Identity of the Little Horn

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Europe and the Church, Part 5

The Identity of the Little Horn

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The prophet Daniel, receiving a vision from God, was "considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words" (Daniel 7:8).

The "fourth beast" of Daniel 7:7 is described as a great military power that was to be "dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong...[with] huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet." As explained in part 2 of this series (June 2008), this prophecy is fulfilled in the Roman Empire. Many students of prophecy recognize that the historic world-ruling kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome were pictured by the great beasts in this vision. In contrast now we read of another "horn," again symbolizing royal power and authority, whose strength is not in military might, but in its "mouth speaking pompous words."

Later in this chapter we read more detail of this horn.

"Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet; and the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows. I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them" (verses 19-21).

Again, we see here that the military power comes first. The Roman Empire began in the pre-Christian era. But again we read that this other nonmilitary horn comes out of the Roman Empire. It's described as "a mouth which spoke pompous words." We are also told that it would make "war against the saints," the true followers of God.

Continuing in verse 25, we read that "he shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law." Who could this be talking about? Who could have changed "times and law"?

The answer to this is found in history. Remember, Daniel was writing hundreds of years before these events were to happen. Even skeptics who don't believe the book of Daniel was written in the sixth century B.C. have to admit that it was in existence at least one or two centuries before Christ because that's the accepted dating for the Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the book of Daniel. So this prophecy clearly long predated the events it describes here.

Verse 25 ends with these chilling words: "Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time." The true followers of God were to be persecuted for a long period of time by this little horn.

In the book of Revelation, written six and a half centuries after Daniel, we read again of this persecution of God's true servants. Again, it's in the context of the Beast powers.

The book of Revelation is the "Revelation of Jesus Christ" to the apostle John (Revelation 1:1).

John writes: "Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion" (Revelation 13:1-2).

In this vision, John sees a composite of the first three beasts of Daniel chapter 7, the lion, bear and leopard, reflecting that the Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Greco-Macedonian empires rapidly succeeded one another and that they had similar characteristics. Could it be that they all shared a common source of their power? Notice, "The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority" (Revelation 13:2). Satan is the great dragon who deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9). He is also the "god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4) who wields great power over human affairs.

John continues: "I saw 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" (Revelation 13:3). The Western Roman Empire suffered an apparent mortal wound when it fell in A.D 476. But unlike most powers that fall and disappear, its "deadly wound was healed" and it would be resurrected. Notice in verse 4 the religious dimension: "So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, 'Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?' And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.

"It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (verses 4-8).

In verse 11 John sees "another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon." Jesus Christ is described as the Lamb of God, while Satan is a dragon. So this Beast with "two horns like a lamb" is a tool of Satan trying to pass as a representation of Jesus Christ. "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Here we see described a false religious system, which comes out of the fourth beast and tries to pass itself off as Christian. It is a counterfeit form of Christianity. As Daniel 7:25 says, it would "change times and law." A study of church history reveals that in the first four centuries after Christ died, doctrinal upheavals occurred in the Christian church that centered on changing the God-given day of worship from the Sabbath to Sunday (changing times) and teaching that the law of God was done away (changing laws).

Jesus Christ did not teach either of these things. Rather, He said: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill [that is, to live to the full, thereby setting an example for all people]" (Matthew 5:17).

In Revelation chapter 12, we read that the false religious system, inspired by Satan, "went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 12:17). This points to an end-time continuation of a centuries-old tactic. History shows us that the true Christian apostolic Church was nearly wiped out by this false form of Christianity that became the official church of the Roman Empire in the early fourth century.

In Revelation 13:15 "the image of the beast" is associated with worship and with religious persecution of those who will not worship in that way. It should be apparent that this image is a religious organization allied with the political power of the Beast. This religious power is brought to life by the one who "exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed" (verse 12).

The image, that is, the religious institution reflecting the power of the state, was to coexist with the empire from the conversion of Emperor Constantine until the fall of the Western Empire almost two centuries later.

Who is the little horn?

"The true successor of the Western Empire was the Papacy." These words were written by L. Elliott Binns in an introduction to his definitive work The Decline and Fall of the Medieval Papacy (p. v).

Binns' book cover states: "Not only was the Papacy the true successor to the Roman Empire; it was also the Empire's mirror image."

Writing of events that occurred in the latter half of the seventh century, historian Paul Johnson observed: "The Roman Church still spoke for the Empire" (The Offshore Islanders, 1972, p. 57). "Politics and religion were inseparable" (ibid., p. 49). Does the papacy fit the Bible description of "the image of the beast" (Revelation 13:15)?

Notice the similarities between the empire and the successor church.

"Though the administrative centre of the Empire had been transferred to Byzantium, the state religion was still centrally conducted from Rome. Already indeed its chain of command, and its contacts with outlying regions such as Britain, were maintained in a more regular fashion than the political and military functions of the Empire. Christianity still had a working international infrastructure.

"This religion, by its very nature, was centralized, universalist, authoritarian and anti-regional. It was run by a disciplined priestly caste, commanded by bishops based on the imperial urban centres, under the ultimate authority of the Bishop of Rome itself, the spiritual voice of the western Empire. Its doctrines were absolutist, preaching unthinking submission to divine authority: the Emperor and his high priest, the Bishop of Rome, in this world, and a unitary god, who appointed the Emperor, in the next" (ibid., pp. 29-30).

There was, however, a difference.

"Under the pagan Empire the centre of unity had been political, the paramount authority that of the Emperor himself; so long as the supremacy of the state was recognized men might hold many different kinds of creeds and philosophies. The middle ages developed along exactly opposite lines; its centre of unity was religious, the Roman Church; whilst alongside this religious unity there might go any number of political variations" (Binns, p. 3).

In other words, religious freedom was nonexistent throughout the Middle Ages, the period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the modern age at the end of the 15th century.

Church and state—an uneasy relationship

In Revelation chapter 17 we read a prophecy of the false religious system and its relationship with the governments of this world, a relationship that was to dominate the period from the giving of the Revelation to the apostle John, all the way to the second coming of Jesus Christ.

This relationship is starkly described: "With whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication" (Revelation 17:2). When people are drunk, they don't know what they are doing. False religion is like that. Humanity is ignorant of the fact that Satan "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9).

When you look back at the history of the last two millennia, no institution has so dominated the world for such a long period of time as that of the papacy.

If the Church of Rome is the "image of the beast," then that church is mentioned fairly extensively because of its political role—a role made more formidable by the Vatican being a state as well as the headquarters of a universal church. Despite the fact that Jesus Christ said that His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), here is a church that has played a major political role for two millennia. This false church is described as a "harlot" (Revelation 17:1), selling herself for temporal gain.

The ascendancy of the church began with Emperor Constantine (see part 3, August 2008), but the church really began rising to power when the Empire in the West fell. "When there was no longer an Emperor in the West and the link with the East was but slender, papal Rome took the place of imperial Rome" (Binns, p. 11).

The relationship between the church and the state dominated European politics right down until modern times. Even today, some European countries still maintain a close tie between the established church and the state.

The relationship has not always been an easy one, which is exactly what prophecy said would be the case. "Fornication" (Revelation 17:2) is never an easy relationship. Whereas the physical relationship between a husband and wife is based on love and commitment, two people fornicating temporarily use each other, each seeking what he or she can get from the other.

That's the way it has been with the church-state relationship throughout history. At various times, the two have come together for mutual benefit, but much of the time they have struggled for preeminence over each other.

In verse 7 of Revelation 17, we see a description of the false church, pictured by a woman, and the "beast that carries her." Again, the analogy here is an appropriate one. Anybody who has ridden a horse knows that the rider is not always in control. The church may think it can control the power of the state, but it often loses control. This Beast the woman rides is described as having "seven heads and ten horns." In verse 9 we see that "the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits."

In the Bible, a "mountain" is symbolic of a great nation or empire, compared with smaller nations depicted as hills. For example, in Isaiah 2:2 we see the coming Kingdom of God depicted as a mountain that "shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills." The government of God will eventually be over all the great nations as well as the smaller ones.

Since the Beast the woman rides would correspond to the Roman Empire, its seven heads or mountains would be revivals of the Roman Empire. The papacy was to continue the Roman system down through the centuries, often taking a political role, but also heavily involved in attempts to revive the Roman Empire, "the seven heads…on which the woman sits" (Revelation 17:9).

But before that, three kingdoms not controlled by the false church would be uprooted (see "Three of the First Horns Plucked Out by the Roots").

Remember, the little horn of Daniel 7:8 has "eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words." This little horn wields enough power to pluck up kingdoms, yet is not described as a true political power. It is a religious power, also described as "the image of the beast." Almost 2,000 years of history shows the consistent presence of a great Roman church allied with the various revivals of the Roman Empire. WNP

See print or PDF versions for "A Partial Chart of Prophecies of World Empires."

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