The Book of Revelation
Issue No. 175
Daniel 7 foretold the rise of four successive empires that would dominate the western world. They were Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Out of the fourth empire (Rome) was to come a “little horn” in Dan. 7:8,
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.
Daniel did not know the meaning of this little horn, but he received that revelation in Dan. 7:19-22,
19 Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast [Rome], which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet, 20 and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which was larger in appearance than its associates. 21 I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.
The description of this little horn continues in Dan. 7:25, where we read,
25 And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.
This last description is the most valuable, because it speaks of the complete replacement of Roman law that was done in the days of the Emperor Justinian. We wrote on pages 24 and 25 of our book, The Seven Churches,
“Because of changing times, as Will Durant tells us, ‘the whole vast body of Roman law had become an empirical accumulation rather than a logical code’ (The Age of Faith, p. 111). It was in serious need of revision. Justinian did this in 529 AD, calling it the Codex Constitutionum. All Roman legislation and laws up to that time were nullified. There was to be only this new system of law. Four years later, after getting the opinions and responses from other Roman jurists, he revised the Codex and published it under the Latin title, Pandectae.
“This complete overhaul of the Roman legal system was extremely important, for as Will Durant informs us again, ‘This Code . . . enacted orthodox Christianity into law . . . All ecclesiastical, like all civil, law, was to emanate from the throne’ (The Age of Faith, p. 112).
The problem with this new set of laws was that it largely ignored the divine law and relied primarily upon the Church’s lawless view of right and wrong. This second Codex, the Pandectae, was enacted in 533 A.D.
The dates of this new Roman law code (529-533 A.D.) are among the more important dates in Bible prophecy. Dan. 7:25 tells us that it marks the beginning point of a “time, times, and half a time.” In Rev. 13:5 this is interpreted to be a period of “forty-two months.”
In Bible prophecy, 42 months is computed as 42 x 30 days, or 1,260 days, or roughly three-and-a-half years in short-term prophecy. In long-term prophecy, of course, this computes to 1,260 YEARS. The starting time of this little horn, then, is here dated by the Codex, 529-533 A.D., and runs until 1789-1793 A.D.
This Codex, enacted by the Emperor in Constantinople, marked the primary time when the Papacy began to exercise temporal power as well as spiritual power. Its view of right and wrong was hereby fully enforced in the secular courts. Though the Western Roman Empire had fallen in 476, the Papacy rose out of its ashes and actually gained more power than the original Emperors.
This is the so-called “revived Roman Empire” of the little horn. Many modern prophecy teachers think this event is yet future, because they have not considered the facts of history. Rome ruled supreme for 1,260 years until the French Revolution dealt it a major blow from 1789-1793. These are the dates of the “reign of terror” in France. France had been the main bulwark of Roman Catholicism up to that time. In the French Revolution, the Roman Church was the biggest loser. It was the beginning of the end of their dominance over the Western nations.
As we will see later in our study of Rev. 13, a new beast arose during the French Revolution that began to challenge the power of Rome. It was the modern banking and industrialist dynasties that financed that Revolution and asserted their own power over the nations.
For now, however, we must limit our comments to the situation in the sixth century. The rise of the little horn in 529-533 A.D. came to full bloom in 606 when Pope Boniface III claimed exclusive title to the title, “Universal Bishop.” This he did just a few years after his predecessor (Gregory) had stated strongly that this was a “blasphemous antichristian assumption.”
In making such a statement, Pope Gregory identified the Papacy itself as the little horn of Daniel. Dan. 7:8, 20 says that this little horn spoke “great boasts.” But Rev. 13:5 interprets this as “arrogant words and blasphemies.”
Furthermore, Pope Gregory even identified the Papacy as “antichrist,” if any Roman Bishop were to lay claim to the title of “Universal Bishop.” As we saw in a previous bulletin, the word antichrist means “in place of Christ.” In other words, the Vicar of Christ. A Vicar is one who rules in place of Christ in the sense of claiming the authority to overrule Christ and the apostles at will. This is precisely the authority that the Roman bishops soon began to claim for themselves.
Those who teach the futurist view of Revelation think that the little horn is the antichrist, who will rule a revived Roman Empire. They are largely correct. They simply do not know history, and so do not realize that it has already come to pass.
This, then, is the historical background to the rise of Islam that began in 612 A.D. just six years after Pope Boniface III claimed the title of “Universal Bishop.” God raised up Mohammed to judge the corrupted Church. In fact, Mohammed actually began to get his revelations about 606 A.D. His preaching began in 612.
The Church had put away the divine law, substituting its own traditions. So God raised up Islam to do the same.
The Church had used its own laws, as seen in the Pandectae, in a legalistic way. That is, the law was applied apart from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And so God raised up Islam to show us the final result of legalistic religion. The final result of legalism is to justify hatred of all “enemies” as if hatred is the fruit of the Spirit. Even as the Church attempted to convert men and nations by the power of the physical sword, so also did Islam respond in kind. The only difference is that God empowered Islam to do it, whereas the Church did it in direct disobedience to the commandment of Jesus Christ.
The First Woe: The Saracens (612-762 A.D.)
The rise of Islam begins properly with the year that Mohammed began to teach in 612 and peaks with its capital moving from Damascus to the new city of Baghdad in 762-63. Rev. 9:1 says,
1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. 2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3 And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
Six years after the Roman bishop laid claim to the title of “universal bishop,” God raised up a man named Mohammed in 612 A.D. to bring judgment upon the Church. Rev. 9:1 speaks of a “falling star,” which is not to be taken literally as a star or meteor or planet. It says that God gave the key of the bottomless pit to the fifth angel. He used the key to open the abyss, and let loose what is pictured as smoke and locusts.
Locusts come out of the ground, and so they are a very appropriate symbol. But these locusts are not literal, for they are commanded not to hurt the grass or any green thing. Literal locusts devour everything that is green. But Islam’s sacred color is green, and Koran Law forbids harming trees and all green things. So Rev. 9:4 says,
4 And they were told that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
Mohammed began his mission in 612. After ten years he had to flee from Medina in 622. The year 622 is called the hegira, and is the beginning date of the Islamic lunar calendar even today. Mohammed successfully negotiated the conquest of Medina, and the religion spread in the same way that Christianity had spread after the fall of pagan Rome—by conquest.
Though Islam had its birth in the Arabian peninsula, it was too far south to remain the capital of the emerging empire. H. G. Wells says on page 593 of The Outline of History,
“Medina was no longer a possible centre for its vast enterprises in Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean, and so Damascus became the usual capital of the Omayyad Caliphs.”
The Omayyad Caliphs (“successor”) were from the family of Omar I, who came to power in 634 shortly after the death of Muhammed (632) and his immediate successor, Abu Bakr (634). The Omayyad family remained in power until overthrown by the Abbasid family in 750.
The Abbasid Caliphate was established in 750 by Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah (“The Bloodthirsty”), ruling from India, Syria, and along the coast of North Africa all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. However, he died of smallpox in 754, and his son, Abu Jafar al-Mansur (“The Victorious”) was his successor.
According to The Encyclopedia of World History, page 113, edited by Peter Stearns, al-Mansur founded his new capital city of Baghdad in 762. This date is important because it marks the climax of the rise of Islam precisely 150 years after Mohammed first began preaching his new religion. This is the “five months” of Rev. 9:5.
In Baghdad al-Mansur gathered together the greatest intellectuals of the world. In the very time of Europe’s dark ages, where science and literacy was at a minimum, learning flourished in Baghdad. The center of gravity for culture and civilization itself had shifted from the Christian West to the Muslim East. As H. G. Wells says on page 596,
“Arabic continued to spread until presently it had replaced Greek and become the language of educated men throughout the whole Moslem world.”
This also ended their period of aggressive expansion. At this point, at their height of glory, they could only begin to decline, for there was only one direction they could go.
Rev. 9:5 continues,
5 And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man.
Muslim policy was to conquer and convert people to Islam, and if they did not convert, they had to pay a special tax. They did not give merely two choices to their conquered people—convert or die—but three choices. H. G. Wells says on page 584,
“. . . everywhere they offered a choice of three alternatives; either pay tribute, or confess the true God and join us, or die.”
When Jerusalem surrendered to Omar in 638 (without resistance), H. G. Wells informs us on page 586,
“. . . the Christians were to be tolerated, paying only a poll tax; and all the churches and all the relics were left in their possession.”
Thus Rev. 9:5 was fulfilled, for the new invaders were not allowed to kill Christians and Jews. In this, the Muslims were more merciful than either the Jews (in the early days of Christianity) or the Christians (when they came to power). God was merciful when He limited their divine mandate in Rev. 9:6, 10 (quoted below).
Instead, their “sting” was like that of a scorpion (Rev. 9:6)—it was painful to the Church, but it was not normally fatal. At the same time, because the people themselves believed that martyrdom would bestow sainthood upon them, Christians were afflicted with a strange love-hate relationship with death. They wanted to die as martyrs, but were denied that by the official Islamic policy. Hence, we read in Rev. 9:6,
6 And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; and they will long to die, and death flees from them.
Christians were not happy about being ruled by Islamic people. The sting of Islam was quite painful to them. The Muslims called them dogs and infidels and had great contempt for what they saw as idolatrous people who had images everywhere and worshipped three gods in a sort of divine triumvirate, with Mary being a fourth with ever-increasing influence upon the Christian gods.
Rev. 9:7-10 gives us a physical description of the Saracen horsemen as they rode into battle in those days:
7 And the appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads, as it were, crowns [turbans] like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. 8 And they had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9 And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle.
The Saracens were some of the best horsemen in the world. They wore colored turbans. The Greek word is stephanos, the normal word for a laurel wreath that was given to conquerors or to those who won a contest. However, wreaths were always green in Rome or Greece. These are said to be yellow to show that they were not made of leaves, but of cloth. That is, they were turbans.
They had the faces of men, but hair like that of women. In other words, they were men, but the Saracens wore their hair long.
Their teeth were not lions’ fangs but a description of their fierceness and valor in battle. They wore iron armor and had iron breastplates which made quite a clatter as they charged their horses into battle.
. 10 And they have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months.
Secondly, this time period was said in verse 5 to be “five months.” In prophetic time, a month is 30 days, with a day representing a year (Num. 14:34; Ez. 4:6). Thus, a month in prophetic time is a period of thirty years. Five months, then, is a period of 150 years.
Thus, from the beginning of Mohammed’s mission in 612 to the height of glory at Baghdad in 762 was 150 years. During that time, they swept across the Middle East and across North Africa. After taking Jerusalem in 638, they subdued Egypt in 641 and in 700 they conquered Algiers. By this time Christianity was nearly non-existent in North Africa.
By 707 they had taken all of North Africa, and by 715 the Moslem Empire extended from the border of China to the Pyrenees, including nearly all of Spain. From 720-732 the Arabs ravaged southern France until Charles Martel finally defeated them decisively at the Battle of Tours and the Battle of Poitiers in 732.
In 718 the Arabs sent a large fleet of ships to attack Constantinople, but they failed and the fleet was destroyed. In 748 another Arab fleet was destroyed during an attack on Cyprus.
In 755 the Caliphate at Cordova, Spain was founded by Abd-al-Rahman. (Under a later ruler of this Caliphate in about 960, the Jewish court doctor and diplomat, Hasdai ibn Shaprut, wrote a letter to King Joseph of the Khazar Kingdom to inquire of the “Jewish Kingdom” located north of the Black Sea.)
In 760 a Tartar tribe founded a Turkish Empire in Armenia, which proved to be the seed of the next phase of prophetic fulfillment in Revelation 9:12-21. It was founded just as plans were being made to build the new city of Baghdad and move the capital there from Damascus.
Apollyon and Abaddon
Rev. 9:11 says,
11 They have as king over them the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.
The Hebrew word, Abadon, is translated destruction whenever it is used in the Old Testament. John says that its Greek equivalent is Apollyon. Abadon is associated with sheol (the grave, or “hell”) in Prov. 15:11 and with death in Job 28:22. This is meant to associate this “king” with the abyss, or bottomless pit, mentioned in Rev. 9:1.
Hence, I find it significant and interesting that the city at the north end of the Persian Gulf, where Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait meet, is the city of Abadan. It is the site of the largest oil refinery in the world.
This 150-year conquest given to the followers of Islam took much of the territory once held by the Western Roman Empire. They failed to conquer Constantinople, the seat of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium). The Christians, of course, viewed the Moslems as a threat to their religion—which it was, because God had raised them up precisely for that reason. It was designed to judge the religious system that had forsaken God and had substituted the rule of man for the rule of Christ. This, however, they never really understood, and so the lawless apostasy continued unabated, increasing as time progressed.
In the next issue, we will see how John prophesied the conquest of Constantinople and how they accomplished it. This is one of the most remarkable and detailed prophecies in the entire Bible. This conquest sent thousands of Greek theologians into the West with Greek copies of the Scriptures, setting up the events of the Reformation that are foretold in Revelation 10.