Rome--a Christian Nation: Background
Jan 09, 2007
I have shown earlier that each of the beast empires prophesied in Daniel 7 had submitted in some manner to the God of the Bible. Together, these empires formed the single image seen in King Nebuchadnezzar's dream recorded in Daniel 2. The great Babylonian Captivity was more than just a 70-year captivity. The 70 years turned out to be just the first phase of the captivity, the "head" of the image.
Most Christians know that the basic reason for the captivity was due to the sin of Jerusalem. But few people really understand the legal significance of this and all the prior captivities. Most do not see this transfer of authority in the world in terms of being "chosen." Yet such understanding has tremendous ramifications to our entire understanding of the mind of God insofar as His impartial character is concerned.
How could God have a Chosen People and still remain impartial, as His own law demands and the New Testament teaches? Many have pinned salvation itself to being chosen ("the elect"), whereas it actually indicates election or appointment to a position of authority over others. The idea of "chosenness," then, has to do with God's right to appoint leaders and governments in the world--not with the idea of saving the "chosen" and losing the rest.
God chose Israel to be above all people insofar as the divine government was concerned. But when Israel abused that authority, God chose other nations and put Israel under their authority. This was totally within His right, for He has always sought a people who would actually exercise authority over creation without usurping it or abusing others.
When Israel abused its authority, God put them into various captivities in the book of Judges, temporarily shifting to other nations the divine right to rule. When they persisted in rebellion and abuse, God finally gave Jerusalem and Judah into the hands of Babylon, not for a mere 70 years, but for over 2,500 years. This "Babylonian succession of empires" was actually a series of captivities under four or five distinct nations.
God worked with each of these nations, bringing them all to the point where they recognized His sovereignty over them. First Babylon's king came to recognize God (Daniel 4). Then Darius, the Medo-Persian king did the same (Daniel 6). Then Alexander the Great of Greece, as we saw previously. Yet the kings of each empire later abused their divine authority, not understanding the responsibility of being divinely chosen to rule.
And so each of them were overthrown by the next prophesied empire. Their usurpation of authority--ruling by their own decrees, rather than by the mind of God--was the reason God caused each empire to fall to its successor.
The Greek empire was divided among Alexander's four generals, but the focus of attention in Daniel 11 is upon just two of them--the Seleucid dynasty in Syria and the Ptolemy dynasty in Egypt. When the Seleucid king, Antiochus Epiphanes, desecrated the temple in Jerusalem to the point of sacrificing a pig on the altar, he lost his divine authority. God raised up Judas the Maccabee ("hammer") to drive out the Seleucids from Judea in 163 B.C.
Judea then became an independent nation for precisely one century before the captivity passed to the fourth kingdom--the iron kingdom of Rome.
If the people had believed Daniel's prophecy, they would have understood this and would have submitted to Roman rule as they had done previously under Alexander. But this time the high priests were given no particular revelation, no dream instructing them to submit to the Roman general, Pompey. Instead, they had gotten a taste of freedom and would not easily give up their dream of independence.
Thus, during their entire captivity to Rome, they chafed and complained and hated the Romans, not knowing that in hating the Roman government, whom God had chosen, they were really also hating God Himself. Their bitterness caused many revolts, led by many so-called "messiahs," each promising the people liberty. In fact, their concept of the Messiah came to be dominated by their view that he would lead a successful revolt against Rome and all of God's supposed enemies.
When Jesus came as a Prince of Peace, having no thought of overthrowing Rome, but rather submitting to the Roman authorities, the people were easily convinced by the leaders that He was a false messiah. He simply did not fit their idea of what the Messiah was to do.
In the great revolt of 66-73 A.D., Jerusalem and Judah were judged heavily for their unbelief--not merely their refusal to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but also their refusal to believe the instructions of Jeremiah and the prophecies of Daniel. If they had believed Jeremiah and Daniel, they may well have seen that Jesus was the Messiah, for everything He did was based upon the words of the prophets.
Instead, they found themselves back under the iron yoke of Deut. 28:48, as in the days of their 70-year Babylonian captivity. Jeremiah had offered them a wooden yoke (remaining in the land during their captivity), if they would but submit to God's yoke of judgment (Jer. 27:12). In their refusal, however, the alternative was the iron yoke (Jer. 28:13).
In the first 70 years, Judah remained under the iron yoke. Then when Babylon fell, they were liberated to a wooden yoke under Medo-Persia and allowed to return to their own land to serve out the remaining years of their captivity. This lasted until the first century when they revolted against God and His chosen Roman nation. That revolt put them back under the iron yoke for the remaining years of their long-term Babylonian captivity.
In the centuries that followed, Judaism came to an understanding that this captivity was from God and that they were to submit to the rule of other nations until the coming of the Messiah. Yet there were still complaints among many, which, along with natural impatience, made them vulnerable a century ago to the rise of Zionism.
Jewish Zionism was the attempt to shorten the time of captivity by the efforts of men who did not believe the Old Testament prophets. Christian Zionism is the supporting cast from Christians who have little understanding of the Scriptures. Zionism itself was made possible only because Jacob had wronged Esau many years ago, and so the descendants of Esau had to be given lawful satisfaction according to the impartial law of God. For a full study of this, see my book, The Struggle for the Birthright.
With this background and overview in mind, we can understand how the Romans could be called "God's Chosen People," however temporary their "chosen" status turned out to be. Rome became a Christian Nation, essentially following the example of the first three beast empires of Daniel 7.
This did not happen under the Emperor Constantine, for he only issued his "Edict of Toleration" in 313, giving equal status to all religions, including Christianity. It was not until 391 A.D. that Emperor Theodosius made a decree outlawing pagan sacrifices and making Christianity the official religion of Rome.
This Edict, by the way, was issued by the iron kingdom of Rome--not by the Roman Church which assumed power after the fall of the Empire in 476 A.D. Daniel had prophesied of a "little horn" that was to come out of Rome. This was the Roman Church, which also declared the God of the Bible to be sovereign. But, as we will see, like all of its predecessor "chosen" nations, they usurped authority and abused the people.
When we view the Roman Church as part of a continuing succession of beast empires, each declaring God sovereign, but ultimately usurping authority, history and prophecy become understandable.
This is the first part of a series titled "Rome--a Christian Nation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones