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Daniel 7: The Vision of the Four Beasts, Part 2

Jun 10, 2015

The Fourth Beast: Rome

The fourth beast correlates with the iron legs and feet in Daniel 2:33. Daniel 7:7 says,

7 After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.

This is the beast of Rome. It has the greatest strength of the four, both in terms of metals and in brute strength. In speaking of Rome in metallic terms, Daniel 2:40 says that it was to be “strong as iron” and that “it will crush and break all these in pieces.” Nonetheless, there it was to have weak feet and toes on account of the clay mixed with the iron. The feet and toes speak of the latter portion of its rule, just as the lion of Babylon was weakened by plucking the feathers off its wings toward the end of its time.

The strong “legs” were fulfilled by the Roman Empire, after it took possession of Jerusalem in 63 B.C. Later, it was divided into four parts, each ruled by a Caesar, but in 395 A.D. it was permanently divided into just two “legs,” the Eastern and Western Roman Empire.

The Western “leg” collapsed in 476 A.D. The Eastern “leg” continued until 1453 when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. It was renamed Istanbul in 1930.

Daniel 7:7 describes this beast as having ten horns. This is explained partially by Daniel in later verses, but more completely by John in the book of Revelation.

The Little Horn

Daniel 7:8 says,

8 While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering great boasts.

This little horn represents the feet of iron mixed with clay. Hence, it has a fundamental weakness, since iron does not mix with clay (Daniel 2:43). This phase of the iron kingdom in a sense is a fifth kingdom, distinct and different, yet it is treated as an outgrowth of the fourth. In other words, it is a new phase of the iron kingdom.

It began when the Emperor Justinian “The Great” came to power in Constantinople in 527 A.D., which was 49 years after the fall of the Western Empire and the city of Rome itself. It appears that a Jubilee cycle was meant to separate the two phases of the iron kingdom. There is no justification for a 1500-year “gap” in prophecy from the fall of Rome to the establishment of the European Economic Community in 1958. Further, since the European Union has far more than “ten horns” (members) today, the predictions of the prophecy teachers have been fully discredited.

Emperor Justinian sought to reconquer the Western empire from the invaders who had taken it in 476. He did not succeed in this, but from a prophetic standpoint it is more important to understand the power struggle between church and state. Justinian, as emperor, represented the “state,” ruling from Constantinople. The Popes, however, represented the church, ruling from Rome. The power struggle between them was perhaps the first manifestation of the weakness in the feet of iron and clay.

The most important identifying mark, which we will discuss later in greater detail, is that the emperor “will intend to make alterations in time and in law” (Daniel 7:25). This describes perfectly the two main works of Justinian. The Roman calendar had been dated from the founding of Rome (ad urba condita) in 753 B.C. Justinian changed it so that the years began with the birth of Christ. Then the emperor overhauled the entire legal system of the empire in order to “Christianize” it. The first draft of these new laws was published in 529, revised in 530, and came fully into force in 534.

The following year, however, Justinian’s dispute (535) with the Roman pontiff, Agapetus, ended with the subordination of the emperor to the pope. The emperor had little choice, because he had put Rome under Church law, not realizing that this would make the popes legally supreme and leave the emperor as the mere enforcer of Church decrees.

This mixture of iron and clay did not mix well, but it was sufficient overall to keep the iron kingdom intact for a long time. Even when Constantinople fell in 1453, papal supremacy remained intact and was only strengthened by the demise of its rival. The Roman church has survived into modern times.

As we will see later, Daniel was most interested in this little horn. In Daniel 7:16 we find that the prophet was able to ask questions in order to obtain further information from “one of those who were standing by.” The Concordant Version calls him “one of the risers,” picturing him as rising (or one who had risen), rather than just “standing.”

The Three Horns Plucked Up

In order to understand the fulfillment of prophecy, one must know how the prophecies were fulfilled in history. Historical knowledge is not generally known by the public, mostly because of the way in which it has been taught. Public schools have made history both boring and irrelevant, whereas it is both interesting and relevant when history is seen as the fulfillment of prophecy.

There is no way to understand how the little horn plucked up the three horns by the roots unless we study the history of Rome during that period. The three horns in Daniel 7:8 were three Arian kingdoms that had conquered different parts of the Western Roman Empire. The Arians were a widespread Christian religious sect who followed the teachings of a man named Arius of Alexandria.

Arius denied Trinitarian doctrine and asserted that Jesus Christ is the Son of God but is distinct and subordinate to God the Father. He also taught that Jesus Christ was created by the Father, rather than being co-eternal. Arianism had become so widespread by the early fourth century that in 325 Constantine called for a Church Council to be held at Nice to settle the issue.

The Church Council vote went against Arius, and so “Arianism” became an official heresy, and for the next two centuries “Orothodoxy” was largely defined by one’s Trinitarian belief.

Of course, the Council of Nicea did not resolve the issue. Constantine himself was an Arian at heart, but he submitted to the decision of the Council. Other Arian leaders, however, were not so submissive, and the conflict continued. The Arians converted many “barbarian” nations to its version of Christianity, and these are the nations that eventually overthrew the Western Roman Empire in 476.

The Heruli Overthrown in 493

Rome itself fell in 476 A.D. to the first of these three Arian kingdoms—the Heruli under an Arian king, Odoacer. Most are unaware that he professed to be a Christian, because the church historians did not consider Arians to be Christians, but heretics. Hence, they called the Heruli “barbarians.”

The Heruli were an East Germanic tribe that migrated south from Scandinavia to the Black Sea in the third century. In the fourth century they were subjugated first by the Ostrogoths and then by the Huns. When they broke free from the Huns in 454, they established their kingdom and conquered Rome. Odoacer was then named King of Italy.

His reign lasted until 493 when he was overthrown by Theoderic (or Theodoric).

The Vandals Overthrown in 533

Theoderic was the son of a German king, Theodemir. He was sent as a hostage to Constantinople, where he was given the best education. In 473 he succeeded his father as leader of the Pannonian Ostragoths. In 483 Emperor Zeno of Constantinople made him a Patrician and gave him the office of Magister militum (master of the soldiers). In 488 he became king of the Ostrogoths.

In 488 Emperor Zeno ordered Theoderic to overthrow Odoacer. After winning some major battles, he took Ravenna, Odoacer’s capital, in 493. On February 2, 493, Theoderic and Odoacer signed a treaty, and a banquet was organized to celebrate the occasion. During the banquet, after a toast, Theoderic killed Odoacer with his own hands.

Theoderic died in 526 just before Justinian the Great came to the throne in Constantinople.

The second of the three horns plucked up by the roots was the Kingdom of the Vandals, another Arian kingdom. They were pushed west by the Huns in 400 A.D. The Vandals then settled in Spain in 409 before invading North Africa in 429, taking these parts from the Western Roman Empire. Saint Augustine of Hippo died at the age of 75 just before the Vandals arrived. At their height they also controlled Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica.

The Vandals established Arianism as the official religion and persecuted the Roman Catholics if they did not convert to the new official faith. Their reputation for cruelty and destruction changed the meaning of the word “vandal” from a wanderer to one who maliciously destroys property.

For the next 35 years the Vandals ruled the Mediterranean Sea, attacking and pillaging the coasts of both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. For a time, the sea was even called Wendelsae, The Sea of Vandals.

In 527 Justinian came to the throne in Constantinople. He sent his great general, Belisarius, to fight against the Vandals in 533, while finishing up his law project. Belisarius defeated the Vandals and turned their kingdom into a Roman province. So the second Arian “horn” was plucked up in 533.


This is part 28 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Daniel." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in the Book of Daniel


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