Seven Beasts and Ten Kings
Issue No. 213
Revelation 17:3 tells us that the great harlot was seen “sitting on a scarlet beast . . . having seven heads and ten horns.” The interpretation of this is given in Rev. 17:9, 10.
9 Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.
John was here referring back to his own day and the manifestation of Babylon prevalent at that time. In that context, Imperial Rome was the powerful iron beast of Daniel 7:7. The City of Rome sat on seven hills called:
Capitolinus 5. Palatinus
Aventinus 6. Quirinalis
Viminalis 7. Esquilinus
These seven hills physically symbolized those seven forms of government leading to the rise of the eighth, which Daniel calls the “little horn.” In its history, the Roman Empire went through seven distinct forms of government, or “seven kings.”
Kings 5. Military Tribunes
Consuls 6. Military Emperors
Dictators 7. Christian Emperors
The first five had “fallen” by John’s day. John wrote the book of Revelation during the time of the sixth, and thus, “one is.” The Military Emperors really began with the death of Nero in 68 A.D., because he was succeeded by Roman generals who fought each other for the throne. The one who came out on top was Vespasian, whose son, Titus, destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
The seventh type of governmental rule was yet future, beginning with Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. that ended the persecution of the Church. It was an edict of toleration. Today we would call it “freedom of religion.” But the toleration was soon eroded for two reasons. First, the Arian controversy made both sides intolerant of each other. The Emperor had to choose sides, and once he made his decision, it became unlawful to believe otherwise. Thus also the non-Christians found themselves with the Arian Christians on the other side of the law.
At any rate, this seventh form of government recognized Jesus Christ as King in theory, but in practice the emperors were still sovereign. The Church appealed to the Emperor to establish their religious view as the law of the land—in effect making the Emperor the unofficial head of the Church.
This new relationship between Church and Emperor not only was the seventh form of government, but it also provided the transition to the eighth beast. It was a new direction of the Empire, and it lasted from 313 until it was overthrown finally in 476 A.D. Only then did the Church under the leadership of the Bishop of Rome (Pope) begin to fill the political vacuum and assert itself as spiritual and earthly sovereign over the nations.
The Eighth Beast
Revelation 17:11 says,
11 And the beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction [apoleian, “perdition”].
The mysterious wording here can be confusing, if one does not know the history of Rome, and if one has not already studied Revelation 13. When John speaks of “the beast which was and is not,” he is referring to the same “beast from the sea” in Revelation 13. There we read in verse 3,
3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast.
Because this beast was slain, it “was not.” But because the “fatal wound was healed,” it came alive and “was” (that is, it existed again in a new form). I expounded on this in FFI #179, Revelation: Part 10. There, I showed how this beast from sea is described in the same terms as the “little horn” that Daniel saw in Daniel 7. I wrote,
“John sees the beast coming from the sea primarily in its capacity as this “little horn,” the fifth manifestation of power in the earth. He speaks in Rev. 13:3 of one of the “heads” of this beast being given a fatal wound, and then this wound being healed. In other words, when the fourth kingdom (Rome) seemed to be killed in 476 A.D. an amazing thing happened—its wound seemed to be healed, and a fifth beast took power.
“This fifth beast is a “horn” (that is, a power). Dan. 7:7, 8 makes it clear that this “horn” comes from the fourth beast with iron teeth (Rome). That is our first major clue as to its interpretation. The second, of course, is the fact that this “horn” assumes power after the fourth beast is slain. In other words, it is a successor to the Roman Empire. It is, in fact, Papal Rome.”
Daniel spoke only of four major empires and then spoke of the “little horn” in connection with that fourth empire (Rome). The prophet was seeing two forms of the iron beast—Imperial Rome and Papal Rome. That “little horn” would then wage war on the saints until the coming of the Stone Kingdom in the second coming of Christ.
John, on the other hand, sees greater detail than Daniel saw. John’s account supplements Daniel’s vision and enlarges upon this “little horn” emerging at the death of the Empire in 476 A.D. Whereas Daniel was seeing four beasts, plus a “little horn,” John was enlarging upon that fourth kingdom of iron, telling us that it would have seven forms of government.
Obviously, the destruction of Daniel’s fourth beast occurred in 476, thus ending the seventh form of Roman government.
The “little horn,” then really begins in 476 or shortly thereafter in the “little horn” (Daniel) or the healing of the fatal wound (John). If we merge the views of the two prophets, we see that Papal Rome was simply the Roman Empire healed and revived into a new religious form that would soon continue the war on the saints until they were all subdued under the authority of man.
Papal Rome “is one of the seven” (Rev. 17:11) in the sense that the popes were no different from the pagan Roman emperors in the eyes of God. The popes persecuted people for thinking differently and for not recognizing papal authority as much as the emperors had done. Both emperors and popes sought for more power and money, and they were increasingly corrupted the more power and money they obtained.
This corruption, of course, was prophesied in the leaven of the Pentecostal offering (Lev. 23:17). I have written much about this, showing that the law mandated leaven to be put into the Pentecostal offering in order to tell us that the Church would become corrupted as time passed.
Also, the fact that John says “he goes to destruction” (apoleian) identifies the Church with Judas, the “son of perdition” (apoleian) in John 17:12. Judas was Jesus’ disciple who betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. Even so, the Church is Jesus’ disciple that has betrayed Him for money once again. That spirit not only was in the Roman Church, but also has affected the Pentecostal Churches of the past century as well. The great harlot has become a “mother of harlots” (Rev. 17:5).
The Ten Horns
Rev. 17:3 speaks also of ten horns on the seven heads. Picturing such a beast would be a bit awkward, unless three of the heads had two horns, while seven had a single horn. But we need not be so literal, because this is all very symbolic. The interpretation is given in verses 12, 13,
12 And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 13 These have one purpose and they give their power and authority to the beast.
After the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D., Western Europe was dominated by the Roman Church. There were “ten kings” that came under Church authority, though, as John says, they had no kingdom yet in the first century when John was alive. It is like a king without a kingdom, that is, a man who wants to be king.
In this case, there were ten nations or ethnic groups in Europe that did not as yet have kingdoms of their own, because they were under the authority of the Roman Empire. They were:
Bavarians 6. Visigoths
Franks 7. Alans
Burgundians 8. Vandals
Alemanni 9. Ostrogoths
Suevi 10. Lombards
Modern prophecy teachers often connect these ten kings to the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image in his dream in Daniel 2. And there is certainly that connection. However, the futurist view of revelation that has arisen in the past 150 years presumes a “gap” during the Church Age, and so they discount any fulfillment of Revelation from Jesus’ crucifixion to the rise of a future “antichrist.”
Their view prevents them from considering the plain history of the Roman Empire, which, if studied, would prove their theory to be incorrect. They are awaiting events that have already occurred long ago, because they fail to study history. The result is that, to them, the book of Revelation is almost entirely future, when in fact it is almost entirely fulfilled now. We are not awaiting a rapture to fulfill a tortured interpretation of Revelation 4, but are now enmeshed in the fall of the great Babylonian system that is foretold in Revelation 17 and 18.
The ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image are made of iron and clay. The iron portion of the feet are the next stage of Roman development—specifically, the Roman Church in its conflict with the Islamic clay. The “feet” are not Imperial Rome, but Papal Rome. The “feet” represent a religious empire—in fact, two religious empires. The old Roman territory ultimately was divided into the Western Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, the latter of which was eventually conquered by the Islamic people.
In Daniel 7:7, 19-24 we get another perspective from the prophet concerning the ten horns (kings). In speaking of the iron kingdom, Daniel 7:7 says that this iron beast had ten horns. Then a “little horn” (power) overthrew three of the ten horns and waged war against the saints.
Modern Bible teachers who teach Futurism and who know little about actual history, presume that this “little horn” is a future “antichrist,” who will lead the European Market Nations (E.E.U.) in a FUTURE “revived Roman Empire.” This view held some credence forty years ago when there were only a few member nations. But now there are 25 member nations with more applying all the time, so many have abandoned that belief or at least have toned down the teaching. Yet they continue to teach Futurism rather than study history’s fulfillment of this prophecy in the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire.
The facts show that the Roman Church came directly out of the fall of the Roman Empire. This is the “little horn” power that made war on the saints. It was an oppressive power that martyred more Christians than the Roman Empire had done. The Roman Church would like very much for us to believe in a future antichrist, because such a view hides their own guilt and throws it upon a hypothetical man in the future.
Daniel 7:24 says,
24 As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom [Rome] ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings.
These ten horns did form ten independent kingdoms for a short season (“one hour”) after the demise of the Roman Empire. Three of them were forcibly subdued. However, in time, mostly by accepting the Roman Pontiff as their supreme head, they came under the dominion of Rome once again and thus lost their sovereignty. John tells us this detail in Rev. 17:13, 14,
13 These have one purpose and they give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them . . .
The three kings forcibly subdued after the fall of Rome in 476 probably refers to the Vandals (534 A.D.), the Ostrogoths (555), and finally the Lombards (774). The Wikipedia says about the Vandals,
The Byzantine emperor Justinian I declared war on the Vandals. The action was led by Belisarius. Having heard that the greatest part of the Vandal fleet was fighting an uprising in Sardinia, he decided to act quickly, and landed on Tunisian soil, then marched on to Carthage. In the late summer of 533, King Gelimer met Belisarius ten miles south of Carthage at the Battle of Ad Decimium. The Vandals were winning the battle at first, but when Gelimer's nephew Gibamund fell in battle, the Vandals lost heart and fled. Belisarius quickly took Carthage while the surviving Vandals fought on.
On December 15, 533, Gelimer and Belisarius clashed again at Ticameron, some 20 miles from Carthage. Again, the Vandals fought well but broke, this time when Gelimer's brother Tzazo fell in battle. Belisarius quickly advanced to Hippo, second city of the Vandal Kingdom, and in 534 Gelimer surrendered to the Roman conqueror, ending the Kingdom of the Vandals.
Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia under “Goths” says,
“The Byzantines broke the Gothic power in 555 . . . The Ostrogoths themselves gradually became absorbed into other tribes, such as the Alani, Vandals, Franks, and Burgundians, who had established themselves in the dominions of the old Roman Empire.”
The Catholic Encyclopedia says of the Lombards, or Longobards [“long beards”],
“But the preservation of the traditions of Rome was due to another cause—religion. The Longobards at the time of the invasion were for the most part pagan; a few had imbibed Arianism, and hence their ferocity against priests and monks whom they put to death. . . . Slowly, however, the light of faith made way among them and the Church won their respect and obedience. This meant protection for the conquered. Gradually, the Church’s constitution and customs spread among the barbarians the ideas of Roman civilization, until at last, in defence of her own liberty and that of the people which the Longobards continued to imperil, she [the Church] was forced to call in the aid of the Franks, and thus change the fate of Italy. This occurred only after two centuries of Longobardic domination.”
The Roman Pope made an alliance with Pepin, king of the Franks and then called upon him to subdue the Lombards. Pepin soon died, but his son, Charlemagne, did the Pope’s bidding, and thus the Church subdued the Lombards and put them under Rome’s religious control. This occurred in 774 A.D.
Years later on Christmas Day of 800 A.D. Pope Leo III crowned him king and the Holy Roman Empire was formed. More than anything before it, this new political empire recognized the sovereignty of the Papacy and became the fulfillment of the ten toes of Daniel. It was a Papal-political revival of the old Roman Empire.
The power of the papacy continued to rise until the popes believed that they could stamp out all resistance and force all men to conform to their authority. They had for a long time made war on those nations and people who had opposed their authority, but this policy of force reached its apex in the thirteenth century in the time of the infamous Spanish Inquisition. The blood of millions of martyrs ran freely for more than two centuries. Only the success of the Protestant Reformation began to slow the flow of blood until it was virtually stopped in Italy itself by 1870.
War on the Saints
Daniel 7 tells us that this “little horn” would wage war against the saints for “a time, times, and a half a time.” A “time” is 360 days or 360 years. In long-term prophecy it is 360 years. So this is a total of 1,260 years of domination and persecution of the saints. Revelation 13 interprets it as 42 months or 1,260 “days,” a day for a year. As we showed in our previous FFI’s, the most important 1,260 year period extends from 529 to 1789 A.D.
Daniel 7:25 says of this “little horn,”
25 And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the highest One. . . 26 But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.
John enlarges upon this and interprets it to some extent for us in Revelation 17:14, 15,
14 These [kings who have given their authority to the “beast” or the “little horn”] will wage war against the Lamb [arnion, “little lambs”], and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.
It is of interest to note that the “Lamb” is from the Greek word arnion, rather than amnos. Amnos is used of Jesus Christ Himself, as in Acts 8:32, John 1:29, 36, and 1 Peter 1:19. It means the big, full-grown Lamb.
Arnion is the lambkin, or little lamb. In John 21:15, Jesus tells Peter to “feed my lambs” (arnion). Needless to say, Jesus did not need to be fed, but the people did, because they were the sheep of His pasture (Ps. 100:3). In the book of Revelation, the arnion is the full body of Christ—the Head and the Body together. Thus, when the beast makes war upon the “saints of the Most High” in Daniel 7:14, John interprets it as the beast making war upon the arnion—the saints of the Most High.
This state of war is a one-sided war, because lambs do not return violence for violence. The overcomers are those who have a lamb nature. Like Jesus, they do not require force or violence to establish His kingdom. They have faith that God will fulfill His word at the proper time. They will overcome the beast by the sword of their mouth, not by a sword in their hands. Their sword is the Word of God.
Even so, Rev. 17:16, 17 says that God will use the ten kings (European nations) and the beast (the Church of Rome) to overthrow the harlot.
16 And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. 17 For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God should be fulfilled.
This verse makes it very evident that the beast is not the harlot. So who is the harlot? That will be our next topic.