There are two (2) chapters on this page, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 from Seven Heads and Ten Horns:



2 Mystery of the Seven Heads


Little if anything in the Apocalypse is as intriguing and even per­plexing  as the seven heads of the beasts de­scribed in Rev. 12, 13, and 17. Even within the Historical School no uniform in­ter­pre­ta­tion exists. That iden­­ti­fying them would not be easy seems to be hinted at in the Bible itself by the words “Here is the mind which hath wisdom” (Rev. 17:9).

     Referring to the chapter in which this statement occurs, Wil­liam B. Engle points out that understanding its basics “is not con­tingent on iden­tifica­tion of the heads.”1 That is possibly true, and yet we can never be sure in advance what light the sharp­ening of our in­sight about any symbol may throw on other topics raised by the Apoca­lypse.

     A serious defect of many analyses focusing on the heads is that they lack support from the Bible or are con­tra­dicted by it. They also often fail in relation to other criteria set out in the first chap­ter of this book (the “Seven Keys to Unlock the Mys­­teries of Reve­la­tion”).

     In what follows, we briefly first refer to eight exist­ing iden­­tifica­tions–there are un­doubt­edly more–and why we find them un­ac­ceptable. Then, in the next chapter, we pre­­­sent our own interpre­tation.

     Such an approach is necessary for many readers, who are pro­bably acquainted with and possibly even puzzled by the alter­na­tive, conflicting expla­na­tions about the seven heads. The field is clut­­tered up with them and needs some preliminary clear­ing. Some, however, may consider this pro­­ce­­dure too “ne­ga­tive,” if not te­di­ous. For them, we suggest that they skip the dis­­cussion of the eight iden­ti­fi­­ca­tions and go straight to our in­ter­preta­tion in the following chapter. Afterwards, if they need to, they can always re­turn to this one.


     First, there is the view that the seven heads do not represent parti­cular entities but simply “all political opposition to the peo­ple and cause of God on earth throughout history.”2 But this idea is ruled out by a single verse, which proves that spe­cific powers are meant: “Five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come” (Rev. 17:10).

     Second, various nineteenth-century authors believed the heads re­ferred to seven stages of Ro­man go­vern­ment. This is how Smith interpreted them in 1876. He said they were the “Kings, Con­suls, Decem­virs, Dictators, Trium­virs, and Emperors,” plus “the Popes.”3 In 1905, Haskell echoed the same idea.4 They inherited it from older interpreters. For instance, in 1825 the British writer John R. Park (1778-1847) main­tained that “the seven heads are kings, consuls, dictators, decem­virs, military tri­bunes, emperors, and popes.”5

     All these men were no doubt also influenced by the fact that in the colleges and even high schools of their time Classical education still pre­dominated. On a regular basis, stu­dents in the United States as in England and Europe had to learn Latin and study Roman his­tory, both of which therefore loomed large in their mental world. 

     This hypo­thesis has become archaic and is sim­ply out of date, especially owing to a more accurate view of the past, made possible by twentieth-cen­tury research. Nowadays we know that not Rome but Hellas created the great, if flawed, civi­liza­tion of the ancient Me­di­­ter­ra­nean world. The pagan Ro­mans—a prac­tical but somewhat un­ima­gi­native people—were largely im­portant for help­ing to spread and perpetuate this heritage. The Lord, in his great scheme of things, would surely not have dignified even their minor constitutional arrange­ments with so much pro­­phetic at­ten­­tion. After all, the Greeks also had many forms of government. The inter­pretation of the seven heads as stages of Ro­man history has simply withered on the vine and need no longer be taken seriously.

     For those that do not find that a sufficient reason for dismissing it, we add the following considerations.

     It is a commonplace of interpretation that the Antichristian beast depicted in Rev. 13 is a composite of the foursome from Dan. 7. Equating the seven heads with political trivia about ancient Rome does not fit in with this overall symbolic pattern, designed by God him­self.

     If in Rev. 17, the seven heads mean seven forms of Roman government, they must also do so in Rev. 12, which deals with the great red dragon. Primarily this represents Satan, but many prophetic expositors have in addition interpreted it as a symbol of pagan Rome. And yet all seven heads wear crowns (Rev. 12:3)! At least four types of republican Roman govern­­ment, the “consuls, decemvirs, dicta­tors, triumvirs,” were fiercely non-monarchical. None of these func­tionaries would ever have dared to wear a crown. Expelling the last monarch, an Etrus­can, subsequent to the rape of the lady Lucretia, the Romans made it a deadly crime for anybody to call himself a king. Julius Caesar was assassinated on the mere suspicion of wanting to be one. This very point was also raised by the wily Scribes and Pharisees at the trial of Christ. They said to Pilate that if he acquitted Jesus, he would not be the emperor’s friend  (John 19:12). It was a deadly threat, which cost the Redeemer his life.

     A major defect of this view is the implication that the heads, and therefore also the horns, mean entirely different things in different Scriptures, Dan. 7, Rev. 12, Rev. 13, Rev. 17, as though these chapters were not related through their allusions and symbolism, which they ob­vious­ly are. This would potentially leave the be­wil­dered reader with a total of twenty-eight heads and forty horns, which is sure­ly far too many.

     Albert Einstein, who had closely studied the complexities of the physical universe, once declared, “The Almighty is subtle, but not malicious.” In this case, too, the Lord has not gone out of his way to be diffi­cult with us; for he wants us to understand his warnings and encou­ragement intended for our welfare. About the Apocalypse, he gave an explicit instruction: “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (Rev. 22:10).

     We need to come up with a coherent picture, in which all the parts of our prophetic inter­preta­tion for Daniel and Revelation as a whole can be fitted together. Our explanation, yet to be presented, meets this criterion. The same cannot be said for any of the older interpreta­tions dealt with in this chapter.

     Yet it is profitable to note the reasons for identifying the seven heads with stages of Roman government and why it was popu­lar in an older America—as an object lesson on how prophetic writers can be affected and misled by cur­­rent pre­oc­­­cupations, and fall into the trap of the contemporary. The topic is also interesting for its own sake.

     When the United States declared its independence in 1776 and eleven years later drew up its present Constitution, the ancient Classics—as these were under­stood at the time—had a dis­­tinctive in­fluence on the form of government that the Founding Fathers decided to adopt. They had inherited elements of democracy from Eng­land, to which they added others that were home grown; but also, as Albert H. Marck­wardt explains, “as a consequence of our break from Eng­lish poli­tical tradition, we tended in our first flush of re­pub­­lican en­thu­si­asm to look to Rome as a model.”6

     This was especially evident in the Americans’ abolition of the mon­­archy and in deferring to the people, which reflected a pre-im­perial Roman ideal7 and is made ap­parent by Latinate words like republic, senate, sena­tor, Capitol Hill, the veto power, etc. The eagle  em­­blem, in­cor­­porated in the grand seal of the United States is also de­rived from Rome. Since ancient times it has been a sym­bol “of empire, of cou­rage, of mili­tary prowess.”8 Gaius Ma­rius (157-86 BC), a very great general and seven-times consul of the Roman Re­pub­lic,9 made it the only battle standard of its legions.10

     Another expedient derived from that ancient people is making the American presi­dent com­mander-in-chief of the armed forces. During a national emer­gency, he can become, with Con­gressional ap­proval, a virtual dictator, at least in military affairs. Of this, the Tonkin Gulf reso­lu­tion during the Vietnam War provides a con­spicuous example. It was passed on 7 August 1964 with a vote of 466 to 0 in the House and 88 to 2 in the Senate. It remained valid until 1970, when the senators re­pealed it, “realizing too late” that they had surrendered to Lyn­don B. Johnson and his suc­cessor, Richard M. Nixon, “their powers in the foreign policy process by giving the president wide lati­tude to con­duct the war as he saw fit.”11  Americans never use the word dictator, as the ancient Ro­mans certainly did. On the other hand, the latter, politically a more cautious people, restricted his powers, deny­­ing him simulta­ne­ous civil ju­ris­­diction. They also limited his tenure to six months.12 When they gave up this practice, as they most notably did in the case of Julius Cae­sar, their republic fell; and then the reign of the dic­­ta­­torial em­perors began.

     The break with England during and after the Revolution was, however, only one reason why an older America doted on Rome. Another was the development of se­cond­­ary educa­tion. Classical ideals formed part of the American Renaissance, and “in dozens of academies the clas­si­cal course, with Latin and Greek language, lite­rature, history, and geography for its subject matter, was the accepted preparatory cur­­­­riculum for college work.”13

       By the 1840s and 1850s, these in­flu­ences extended from the east­ern seaboard to the Mississippi, “dotting the new towns and cities with courthouses built like Doric temples, homes with co­lumned porticos, college buildings repro­ducing the detail of the Par­thenon.” Today its most notable residue is to be found in America’s place names, including eleven Romes, nine Corinths, and twelve Spartas.14

     From the period of the Revolution onward, especially all things Roman were clearly reflected in older writings and art, such as painting and sculp­ture. For in­stance, George Washing­­ton, the in­dis­­pensable man, was—as both Ame­ricans and Europeans saw him—a latter-day Cin­cin­natus: the ancient hero called from be­hind the plow, who ac­cepted supreme, emergency powers when the exist­ence of his people was threatened, yet after­wards hum­bly laid them down again.15 And Jefferson fixed “the nation’s archi­tectural style as that of the Roman re­public,” and “took the first steps that stamped America’s fe­de­ral city as a Roman town.”16

     The time during which the founding fathers and the next few generations lived was ac­cord­ingly cha­­rac­terized by a “cult of anti­quity.” This “was not, in the eight­eenth century, con­­fined to the learned.” Most people knew their an­cient his­tory, “much as medieval be­lievers knew their biblical his­tory, through ritual and icons and theater.”17 Furthermore, his­tory had not yet been abo­lished as a sepa­rate subject in American schools.

     This Classical approach is clearly and rather quaint­ly pre­sent in the first edition of the Life of Washing­ton (1800) by Pastor Mason Locke Weems. It was an im­mense­ly po­pular book, yet its author could—without confusing ordinary readers—write a para­graph like the fol­low­ing: “Wa­shing­ton was pious as Numa, just as Aris­tides, temperate as Epic­tetus, patri­otic as Regulus. In giving public trusts, impar­tial as Seve­rus; in vic­tory, modest as Scipio—prudent as Fabius, rapid as Marcellus, un­daunted as Hannibal, as Cincinnatus dis­interested, to liberty firm as Cato, and respectful of the laws as Socrates.”18 To modern West­erners, this is just abra­cadabra.

     For people today, with their very different educational back­­ground, an inter­pre­tation of the seven prophetic heads as stages in ancient Ro­man government seems quaint and pecu­liar—if not a little un­­ba­lanced. After all, the ancient Re­­public of Rome en­dured for more than four hundred and fif­ty years,19 and its Empire for fur­ther cen­­turies; but its other, earlier stages just briefly flitted into and out of exist­ence.  

     A third, and Preterist, view of the seven heads has a kinship with the foregoing, be­cause of its Classical preoccupation. It holds that they sym­­bolize indi­vi­dual Roman empe­rors, an idea which Ken­neth A. Strand has bril­­liantly re­futed. He shows that up to John’s time not seven but eleven such rulers—from Augustus to Domitian—sat on the imperial throne.20

     The editorial syn­­op­sis of his article ends by also debunking a fourth as well as a fifth in­ter­pretation.

     According to the former, the heads refer to seven individual pon­tiffs from 1798 to the Second Coming. But since that date, when Pius VI suffered the an­guish of arrest and exile at the hands of General Berthier, a little after the French Re­vo­­lu­tion, there have been not seven but four­teen popes.21 There­fore, propo­nents of this view have fan­cifully supposed that only pontiffs with uniquely dif­fe­rent names are meant—although the Scrip­­tures say nothing about this.

     Others, no doubt aware that they cannot pick and choose their popes in such an arbitrary way, have varied this view. They add together the seven heads and seven moun­tains of Rev. 17:9, 10, at­taching importance to the word there. Alas, it does not exist in the Greek original, being supplied by the translators. A better alter­native that agrees with the context would be “The seven heads are seven moun­­tains, on which the wo­man sitteth. And they are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.” In any case, the woman sits on seven and not on fourteen heads. What is more, John Paul II has now died. On 19 April 2005, he was succeeded by Benedict XVI, the fifteenth pope. So this interpretation has collapsed like the pro­verbial house of cards.

     The similar fifth interpretation is that here the Apocalypse re­fers to seven popes since 1929, when the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini restored the Vatican to the pa­pacy. This view is nume­rically more feas­ible, though also commonsensically less appro­priate, be­cause Rev. 17:10 refers to “kings,” a plural word that can hardly apply to the popes in the tiny Vatican of our time.

     Even worse, this last view contradicts the message of the marvelous angel de­picted in Rev. 10:1-10, who greatly re­sem­bles the glorified Christ that spoke to John on Patmos (Rev. 1:13—15). This is the same majestic being who in Dan. 12:6, 7 had sworn that “a time, times and a half” would elapse before the final stage of human history be­gan. And now, in the Apocalypse, he again most solemnly raised his hand to heaven and uttered a second solemn oath by him who lives forever and ever: “that there should be time no longer” (Rev. 10:6). He an­nounced the beginning as well as the end of those terrible 1260 year-days when the holy people would be persecuted and with which the last of the seven heads is closely associated. As for 1929, however mo­men­tous this date may be, it does not belong to the great pro­phetic time pe­riods, all originally mentioned in Dan. 7-12. The last of them ended in 1844.

     The preceding two interpretations are, moreover, unacceptable because “The Bible never uses ani­mal heads or moun­tains as sym­bols of individual rulers”—which “rules out as un­sound any at­tempt to iden­tify the seven heads of Revelation with individual popes, living or dead.”22

     A sixth and more respectable explanation is that the seven heads stand for the great em­pires of history which have often op­pressed the Lord’s faithful followers. They are inter­preted as Egypt and Assy­ria, fol­lowed by Ba­by­­lon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Pagan Rome, and Papal Rome-Eu­rope. However, as C. Mervyn Maxwell points out, “The prophe­cies of Daniel are our key to the inter­pretation of Reve­la­tion. Daniel gives us Babylon, Persia, Greece, Roman Empire, and the Roman Church, but says nothing about Egypt and Assyria.”23 More than that, bringing these two powers into the picture undermines the interpretation that the Leo­pard beast is a composite of the four creatures in Dan. 7. Inter alia, it opens the way for fanci­ful views about the ten horns.

     Maxwell in this has a good point. But we need to add another one: the book of Daniel depicts the Greeks as a fourfold en­tity, in three different contexts. In chapter 7, the leopard has four heads and not one. In Dan. 8, after the notable single horn has been broken, four horns come up out of the Grecian nation (vs. 22). Dan. 11:4 also mentions this four­fold division. There­fore, why would the Greeks in Reve­lation be represented by a single head?

     A seventh view, espoused by Maxwell himself, maintains that the seven heads refer to (1) Babylon, (2) Persia, (3) Greece, (4) the Roman Empire, (5) Christian Rome, (6) Wounded Christian Rome, and (7) Christian Rome Revived.24 Of these, the first four agree with Dan. 2, but do not harmonize with chapter 7; for the Grecian leo­pard has multiple heads. Further­more, assigning four heads to Rome, with three for Christian Rome, is ex­cessive and disal­lowed by Rev. 13:3: “And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast” (em­phasis sup­plied). When it re­vives, it is still the same head as it was before it re­ceived its deadly wound.

     Allocating three heads to Christian Rome is also chro­­nolo­gically out of kilter with the angel’s explanation to John. As he was speak­ing, five of the heads had already fallen (Rev. 17:10). The Ro­man Empire was still in its early stages and must therefore be the sixth and not the fourth head.

     Some expositors are well aware of this difficulty but seek to get around it through rela­tivistic thinking. Maxwell asks, “So shouldn’t Reve­lation 17 be interpreted from the view­point of 1798/1844 and later, the era of the judgment and the end time?”25 Nooo, it should not, unless we can prove that this is what the Bible teaches. The Scrip­tures, we maintain, say no­thing about rela­tiv­istic time frames, an idea that could—if generally adopted—play havoc with all prophetic expo­sition.

     To illustrate a little further how problems can arise from shift­ing the time frame to the period after 1798, let us look at Joseph B. Pierce’s eighth inter­pre­tation. He says the last three of the seven heads are (5) Papal Rome, (6) the United States of Ame­rica, and (7) “(Possibly) Ger­many during the Axis re­gime, under Adolph Hit­ler.”26 This causes threefold confusion.

     First, number (6) im­plies an amal­­­gamation of the two-horned and the seven-headed beast, though Rev. 13 keeps them apart as separate en­ti­ties. America in prophecy looms so large and becomes so im­portant that no mere head can do justice to its end-time pro­mi­nence. To it, the Apocalypse assigns an entire, separate beast—as it does to the papacy.

     Indeed, since Pierce’s book appeared in 1975, the United States has grown im­mense­ly powerful. In 2003, its president, defying both the United Nations and much of world opinion, launched the Second Gulf War to crush the power of Iraq, with assistance from two Anglo-Saxon satellites, Britain and Australia. During the dis­cussions leading up to this event, George W. Bush contempt­uous­ly brushed aside the com­bined opposition of Russia, France, and Ger­many. In the after­math, books ap­peared, not sim­ply to assert that the United States was now an imperial power, but to suggest just what kind of empire it may be.27

     Second, num­­ber (7) in Pierce’s scheme as­signs a head to the coun­try of Germany. But the books of Daniel and Revelation de­pict the European powers not as heads but as horns. (And Hitler as well as his Third Reich have long since va­nished rather in­sig­­ni­fi­cantly into the past, like Napoleon in the nineteenth century—though at that time some expositors tried to fit him into the prophetic scenario of the Apocalypse!)

     Third, as Pierce him­self points out, his explanation entails “that the ten horns of Da­niel’s fourth beast cannot be identified with the ten horns of the three beasts having seven heads in the Revela­tion.”28 This suggests a disjunction between those closely related books of the Bible. Separate sets of ten horns—and heads—are highly suspect. We have already discussed this, more than once, beginning with our open­ing chapter “Seven Keys to Unlock the Mys­teries of Revela­tion,” under Con­sistency and Pro­phetic Augmentation.

     The hypo­thesis of the movable time frame must also fall away, for se­ve­ral reasons. For one thing, it does not ade­quately ex­plain why the Bible—after dealing with the heads—goes on to say, “And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition” (Rev. 17:11). More importantly, it fails to ac­count for the contrasted or­der in which the books of Daniel and the Apocalypse presents the lion, the bear, and the leo­pard elements, though other writers on prophecy seem hardly to have no­ticed this point.

     The different, reversed, sequencing of the lion, the bear, and the leopard elements of Rev. 13 pin­points the prophet’s vantage point in history. He lived and labored during the earlier, pagan stage of the Ro­man Em­pire, when Hellenic philosophy, culture, and syncretism predo­minated. This is why the leopard loomed so large in the creation of the papal Antichrist. Be­fore the Greeks, it was the Medo-Persian Empire that ruled the ancient Middle East, and be­yond them—further back—the Babylonians. This inverted order of pre­senta­tion, as com­pared with Dan. 7, refutes the idea that the seven heads in the Apoca­lypse must be viewed from within a pe­riod many centuries after John would be dead and buried. Conse­quently, when the angel says of the seven kings that “five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come” (Rev. 17:10, emphasis added) he clearly means they should be identified from within the pro­phet’s lifetime.

     A relativistic time shift is arbitrary, and unne­ces­sary. Resorting to such a proce­dure is not un­like the operations in the story of Cinderella. Ambitious mothers, de­spe­rate to make the wonder­ful slipper fit their daughters’ feet, rather painfully snip­ped away the excess flesh. No, let us, instead, adapt our inter­pre­ta­­tions to the pro­phecies, and not the pro­phecies to our inter­preta­tions.

     If we assign to the Greeks not one but four heads, as is clearly done in Dan. 7, this makes it possible to see the seventh head as Christian Rome or Christendom, with the papacy as its out­stand­ing feature—as will be shown in the following chapter. Then every­thing about the prophecy falls into place, though Pierce demurs: “the se­venth head ‘. . . must continue a short space’” and points out that the papacy has on the contrary continued for a very long time.29

     So it has, but this expression needs to be seen against the back­ground of other passages, especially the final promise by the as­cended Re­deemer: “Sure­ly I come quickly” (Rev. 22:20). As al­ready pointed out, the seven­teenth chapter of Revelation paral­lels the twelfth one; the “short space” of the Antichrist echoes a state­ment ap­plied to the great red dragon, Satan, who “knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Rev. 12:12).

     For us, poor human beings with a life span so pitifully brief, how long the cen­turies of Anti­christian oppression have been! But the view­­point of other beings in the cosmos, in­clud­ing the great ad­ver­sary who has lived for many millennia, is very dif­fer­ent. This is even truer of the One whose years are measureless: “For a thou­sand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). He it is, too, that through the inspired apostle en­courages us: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Rom. 13:12). Paul wrote this passage more than 1900 years ago. For God, however, that was only a yesterday ago, and soon enough for us, too, it will be so.





     1. William B. Engle, The Last Loud Cry, 399.

  2. Francis D. Nichol, ed., et al. The Seventh-day Advent­ist Bible Com­­mentary, 7:854.

     3. Uriah Smith, The United States in the Light of Prophecy, 43-44.

     4. Stephen N. Haskell, The Book of Revelation, 228.

     5. John R. Park, Concise Exposition of the Apocalypse, So Far as the Prophecies Are Fulfilled, qtd. in Le Roy Edwin Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fa­thers, 3:535.   

     6. Albert H. Marckwardt, American English, 158.

     7. Garry Wills, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlight­en­ment, 20, 132.

     8. Encyclopaedia Britannica (here­in­after cited as EB) s.v. “Eagle.”

     9. EB, “Marius, Gaius.”   10. EB, s.v. “Flag.”

   11 Mary Beth Norton et. al., A People and a Nation: A His­tory of the United States, 917-18.

   12 EB, s.v. “Dic­tator.”

   13 Marckwardt, American English, 158.   14 Ibid., 159.

   15 Wills, Cincinnatus, 35-36, 184.   16 Ibid., 111-13.   17 Ibid., 133.

   18 Pastor Mason Locke Weems, Life of Washing­ton, 27, qtd. in Wills, Cincinnatus, 35.

   19. J.M. Roberts, The Pelican History of the World, 231.

   20. Ken­neth A. Strand “The Seven Heads: Do They Repre­sent Ro­man Empe­rors?” Symposium on Reve­lation, Book 2, ed. Frank B. Hol­brook, 187.

   21. Paul Johnson et. al., The Papacy, 217.

   22. Editorial Syn­opsis of Strand, “The Seven Heads,” 178.

  23. C. Mer­vyn Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 2, The Message of Revelation for You and Your Family, 474.

   24. Ibid., 475.   25. Ibid., 473.

   26. Joseph B. Pierce, Focused Prophetic Con­cepts, 300-301.

   27. Ivo. H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, “American Empire, Not ‘If” but ‘What Kind,’” The New York Times, 10 May 2003, www.

   28. Pierce, Focused Prophetic Con­cepts, 302.   29. Ibid., 298.


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3 The Mystery Solved


Having dismissed the foregoing eight interpretations—con­clu­sively, we think—let us now restate, and further dis­cuss, our identification of the seven heads, as first sug­gested in the chapter on the leopard beast.

     We showed that this symbolic animal was a perfect composite of the four suc­cessive crea­tures depicted in Dan. 7. We also quoted Max­well, who pointed out: “the leopard had four heads, the other three had one each, and the fourth beast had ten horns,”1—al­though he did not follow up this valuable insight. According to the seven prin­­ciples enumerated and dis­cussed on the doorstep of Volume 2, es­pe­cially the com­parison of Scrip­ture with Scripture, con­­sist­­ency, and prophetic augmentation, these must also be the heads that ap­pear through­­­­out the Apocalypse and to which Rev. 17:9-11 refers.

     There are not twenty-eight heads, just as there are not forty horns, in Daniel and the Re­ve­lation. The seven heads are the Ba­by­­­­lonians, the Medo-Persians, the Greeks (represented by four heads, of which the last in vital ways makes up the Greco-Roman Empire), and Christian Rome-Europe.

     Important for this study is that detail which Maxwell no­ticed but failed to elaborate on. The Grecian leopard of Dan. 7 differs from the other beasts in the num­ber of its heads, which is most significant. All the others, the lion, the bear, and the terrible fourth beast symbolize “universal kingdoms” of the ancient Middle East and the circum-Mediterranean world. The Greeks, however, were different: poli­tically they were always divided. Theirs was never a uni­versal kingdom, though their culture, religion, and philosophy became predominant throughout the Western world—not only in ancient times but for many centuries to come.

     But did Alexander the Great not unite them, at least for his lifetime, into a single empire? That is a common misconception, which flies in the face of the facts. A large and influential por­tion of Hellas, the regions that lay in the West (particularly Italy and Sicily), never came un­der his control. And yet they make up an indispensable part of our story, for it is they that con­sti­tute the fourth head.


     Three salient features link together the beasts of Rev. 12, 13, and 17, establishing a clear exe­getical inter­relationship. First, they all have seven heads and ten horns. Se­cond, the chap­ter about the great red dragon chasing the virtuous woman and the one about the leopard beast involve the identical prophetic period of 1260 days/42 months/3½ years. Third, Rev. 12 and Rev. 17 deal with the same beast in relation to two dif­ferent wo­men, who are ob­vious­ly being contrasted.

     Unraveling the mystery of the heads is relatively easy if we bring together the data and hints from all three of. those chapters, plus additional details from the Apocalypse. Because the scho­lar’s needs so often de­mand it, it is natural to con­cen­trate on indi­vidual visions, as though they were separate pro­­phecies; but that is not the sense in which they were written. Let us, moreover, bear in mind that our present-day divi­sion into chapters and verses did not yet exist in John’s day. Though, for instance, Rev. 12 and 13 focus on somewhat different topics, they are also continuous with each other.

     It is most insightful to read the entire Rev. 11-20 at a single sitting and see it as a coherent pano­rama of the great con­troversy between Christ and Satan, on both a cos­­mic and a ter­restri­al plane. Most of this is portrayed in the form of symbols. On the one hand we have the great red dragon, with his two beast assistants; on the other, the Lamb and angels, some of whom represent his people. The evil one and his human instruments blaspheme and fight against the Saviour, attacking and opposing the Law of God through perse­cu­tion against those who keep it. Heaven responds with judg­ments, a theme re­sound­ing through all ten chap­ters. The Second Coming fi­gures pro­mi­nently, as well as the events that follow it, cli­maxing in Rev. 20, when all the wicked and the devil that deceived them are exter­mi­nated—preparatory to the final two chapters about a new Jerusalem on a recreated earth.

     But behind the Apocalypse additional Bible prophecies loom up and demand at­ten­tion, par­ticularly those of Daniel. As one cohe­rent structure, that book also de­scribes essentially the same pan­o­rama of con­flict, blasphemy, and judgment. In chap­ters 2 and then 7-12, we read about kingdoms and powers—de­picted largely though not ex­clusively through the sym­bols of beasts and horns—that fight against God, the Messiah, and his people. One of these, re­pre­sented in both Dan. 7 and 8 as a Little Horn, op­poses God’s Cove­nant, dese­crates his sanctuary, and even tries to change his Law.

     But the Son of man receives the kingdom and comes back to the world, the beast is con­signed to the flames, and those that faithfully served the Lord inherit the earth.


     According to Rev. 17:9, 10, “The seven heads are seven moun­­tains, on which the wo­­man sitteth. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.”

     The heads have a double application. On the one hand, they re­pre­sent the hills of Rome where figurative Ba­by­­­lon is seated. Having already discussed this idea in an­other chapter, we will not here repeat ourselves. But the heads also symbolize seven ancient empires or socio­political powers.

     Let us notice that the word there in the sentences quoted is lack­ing in the ori­ginal text; it was supplied by the trans­­lators, which has led to misunderstanding on the part of some ex­positors. In the Greek language there, in the sense of in that place, is normally ¦6,Ã (ekei). If such a notion were meant, that word would surely have been used. A better and more normal ren­dering is con­se­quently: “And they are seven kings . . .” This point is important: it negates inter alia the er­ror of interpreting the heads as seven popes.

     By John’s time, five of these entities “have fallen,” namely the Baby­lonian head, the Medo-Persian head, and three of the heads on the Grecian leopard of Dan. 7.

     The “one is” of Rev. 17:10 refers to the pagan empire ruling the entire Medi­ter­ranean world in John’s day. Politically and in a con­­crete sense it was Roman, but in culture, mind, and spirit it was largely Hellenic. The mental makeup of its rulers, in­clud­ing their view of ulti­mate reality, was deeply influenced by the Greeks, from the earliest period and through­out its history.

     The key word for describing the empire of John’s time is Greco-Roman. According to a num­ber of authorities, some already quoted, it re­pre­sented the final stage of the Hel­lenistic world. C.H. King de­scribes it as a “Greco-Roman state.”2

     Prophe­tically this sixth head on the leopard beast and the dra­gon of Rev. 12, 13, and 17 is, then, related to and can—from a reli­gious point of view—be identified with the fourth and final head of the leopard beast described in Dan. 7. This is further borne out by its symbolic represen­tation as a Little Horn in Dan. 8 that is some­how linked to one of the four horns representing the an­cient Greeks.

     In Dan. 7, four leopard heads are allocated to the Greeks, “and do­mi­­nion was given to it” (vs. 6). In Dan. 8, they are repre­sented by four horns, “which stood up out of the nation” (vs. 22). Surely this means all the Greeks, and not only those living in the states resulting from the breakup of the empire created by Alexander and his Grand Army. One division, both an­cient and illus­trious, lay in the West, though it was never conquered by that famous Mace­donian. Nevertheless, it profoundly affected all of Euro­pean history.

     The Greeks at first lived mostly on both sides of the Aegean, that is, in western Asia as well as eastern Europe, and on their many islands. By 550 BC, they had occupied practically the entire coast of the Black Sea. They had also spread their colonies through much of the Medi­­ter­ranean, every­where planting their cha­rac­teristic and often in­de­­pen­dent city-states, even on African soil just west of Egypt in Cyre­naica.

     And then there was Western Hel­las, part of which we shall be focusing on. This included parts of Italy (inter alia “Mag­na Graecia,” Great Greece, as the Ro­mans called it), much of Sicily, sou­thern­most Gaul—especially Mas­silia (Mar­seilles)—and settle­ments in Sar­dinia, Corsica and west­ern Spain.3

     Though Western Hellas escaped Alexander’s do­mi­nion, it fully be­longed to what Daniel calls Grecia (Dan.8:21; 11:2). Nor was it small or in any sense a backward area. Its popula­tion was large and culti­vated, for as Lerner and Burns point out, “Greek civilization in Italy and Si­cily was as ad­vanced as in Greece itself.”4

     Especially illustrious was the city of Syracuse. It stood at the south­ernmost tip of Sicily on its own little island, though with a connective causeway, which made it difficult to attack. Some fifty years before Alexander the Great, its power­ful ruler, Dionysius the Elder (c. 430-378 BC), had made it “the richest and most populous city in the world.”5 From this center, he set out to build an empire. It included most of Sicily, Magna Graecia in southern Italy, and north­ern settlements along the Adriatic like Ancona and Hadria (ancient Venice), a gorgeous city arising on the estuarine marshland of the River Po.6

     But centuries earlier, the Hellenic influence that would profoundly shape the Ro­mans had already taken root on Italian soil. This was a long time before they acquired their polyglot empire or even lived in the city that bore their name. It had also af­fected their prede­cessors, the Etruscans. To begin with, the Greeks came as traders. First on Pithecusae, “a fertile island seven miles from the Campanian main­­land,” just off the northern tip of the Gulf of Cumae, which today is the Bay of Naples. Later they moved onshore and settled at Cumae (Cyme) itself.7 What is also remarkable is that the very names “Greece” (Graecia) and “Hellas” origi­nated in Italy!8

     The founders of Cyme came from different parts of Greece, per­haps as far back as 1000 BC. That city taught the Etruscans, and through them the Romans, the al­phabet, art, and much about “the Greek gods and Greek religion. Heracles, Apollo, Castor, and Poly­deuces be­came such fa­mi­liar names in Italy that they came to be regarded as ori­ginal Italian deities.”9 If the Ro­mans had, according to the legend of Romulus and Remus, been suckled by a she-wolf and thereby imbibed the fierceness which so charac­terized them in later years, their babysitter and primary educator of any signi­ficance was that cultivated wo­man of Cyme. Later Hellenic in­­structors were Magna Graecia and Sicily to the South, before the Ro­mans made significant contact with Athens and Alexandria.

     They not only conquered the Greeks in the area surrounding Naples, Venice, Ancona, and Magna Graecia but ex­tended ci­ti­­zen­ship to them, bringing them—like the rest of Italy—into a spe­cial relation­ship with them­selves. That is, these Hellenic people were all in­cor­porated as an intrinsic part of the heart­land, which was not the case with other terri­tories beyond the seas that later became part of the em­pire. Biolo­gical assimilation followed. The Italian Greeks became Romans.

     Historically this was immensely significant. It is also indicated by prophecy in several con­texts. The fourth beast of Dan. 7 has not only Roman iron teeth but also Grecian nails of bronze. Prophecy relates the Little Horn of Dan. 8 to four horns that represent the Greeks, as an outgrowth. The Antichristian beast, though it is cen­tered in Rome, has a very leopard-like look.

     The Romans had a threefold connection with the Greeks. First the Re­public and later the Em­pire were transformed by their cul­ture. Then they went on to conquer all of Greek-speaking Italy and Sicily, as well as the former Hel­len­is­tic king­­doms. Even­­tually this Roman-Hellenic amal­ga­ma­tion also gave birth to the Byzan­tine Empire.

     Though conquered, the Greeks at no time became the junior partners of the men from Italy. This is how the eminent historian Michael Grant describes their situation: “Apart from the effects which this Greek culture had on the Romans, the Greek world, al­though poli­tically subjected to Rome, had not been Romanized at all—and was never going to be either, to any marked degree. Extended rather than dimi­nished in size, it was going to remain Greek. And, eventually, the Greeks got their re­venge, when Con­stan­tine I the Great (AD 306-337) created his new capital Con­stantinople, on the site of the Greek city of Byzantium: with the logical result that some centuries later the language and cul­ture of the surviving Byzantine, east Rome empire became, offici­ally Greek. . .”10


     The sixth head symbolizes the pagan Roman (actually the Greco-Roman) Empire as it existed in John’s time and for the next two hundred years, from a cul­tural and a religious-philosophical point of view. It is this above all, and not the mere politics of anti­quity, that interests Heaven vis-à-vis the church and is reflected in the prophetic sce­nario described by the Apocalypse.

     Intel­lectually, Rome was large­ly the child of Hellas, conceived and reared by the western Greeks though subsequently also edu­cated by Athens and Alexandria. It is true that ordinary Romans had little time for—indeed, they often despised—the Greeks; and much in their way of life, like the gladi­atorial games, was clearly non-Hellenic. Yet, their collective educator, like so many of their individual pedagogues, was Grecian.

     Their empire brought, as J.M. Roberts puts it, the culmination of the “Hellenistic Age (c. 300 BC-AD 300),” which “may be broadly defined as the period from the Greco-Mace­do­nian con­queror Alex­ander the Great (356-323 BC) to Con­stantine, the first Christian Roman emperor (d. AD 337).” During that period, Middle Eastern syncretism not only fur­ther trans­formed the reli­gion and philosophy of the pagan Ro­mans. It also pro­duced the Mediterranean apostasy: “The basic forms of wor­ship of both the Jew­ish and Christian communities were heavily influenced in their formative period by Hel­lenistic prac­tices, and this remains fundamentally unchanged to the present time.”11

     We realize that this interpretation is bound to meet with resistance from readers who have been taught that the four heads on the leopard in Dan. 7 symbolize four Hellenistic kingdoms resulting from the breakup of Alexander’s empire after his death. They also tend to suppose that such a quadruple division remained a permanent feature for a substantial period of time.

     But the witness of present-day historians uniformly contradicts such a view. They in­sist that after an initial period, during which the Conqueror’s generals fought matters out among themselves, the Hellenistic East comprised only three major kingdoms—apart from many smaller fragments. This is how R. Malcolm Errington, professor of Ancient History at Philipps-Universität in Marburg, Germany, summarizes the final situation: “A powerful po­litic­al structure had developed out of the empire of Alexander, in which three Macedonian ruling families controlled the world of the eastern Mediterranean until the Roman conquest. In Macedonia itself the Antigonids came to power; in Syria, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Iran, the Seleukids; and in Egypt, the Ptolemies.”12

     Our favorite Bible Commentary, with its enlightening maps, says much the same. It shows that in 323 BC, just after Alexander’s death, his former empire was ruled by five men: Anti­pater, Lysimachus, Antigonus, Eumenes, and Ptolemy. A dozen years later, in 311 BC, there were still five of them, although some names were now different: Cassander, Lysimachus, Antigonus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy. Only ten years further on, in 301 BC, they were reduced to four: Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy. But then, a mere twenty years later, in 281 BC Lysimachus was killed, and only three divisions remained: Macedonia, the Se­leucid Empire (which later consisted only of Syria), and Egypt. And this last-mentioned setup lasted for more than a century, until all these territories were conquered by and incor­porated into the Roman Empire.13

     How then can we explain the prophecies of Dan.7: 6, Dan. 8:8, and Dan. 11:4, which all depict a fourfold division? By 280 BC, the quartet of Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy was no more. Yet according to Dan. 8, the four horns that symbolize the Greeks were destined to persist until the advent of the Little Horn, the Romans, long after the death of those men. The difficulty is resolved by adding to the three Hellenistic horns the Western Greeks, as we have done. We also note that, in view of the important role they have played in history, their omission would have been inexplicable.


     The entity represented by the seventh prophetic head still lay in the future for John, who saw it in vision; it had “not yet come.” Located on all three apocalyptic beasts as portrayed in Rev. 12, 13, and 17, it parallels the head on the fourth beast of Dan. 7, which also bears the Little Horn.

     As we saw in Volume One, as a whole the last-mentioned crea­ture sym­bolizes not simply Rome but also Western Europe. It cor­­res­ponds to the legs of iron . . . plus the feet of iron mixed with clay on the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. We think, moreover, that it is not just Roman in a gene­ral, generic sense but particu­larly symbolizes Orthodox and Catholic Chris­­ten­dom, from the era of Con­­­­stantine down to our day.

     In its genesis, this head coincides with what historians call the "Lower Empire," which followed the anarchy of the third century. As Hugh R. Trevor Roper puts it, "there are two successive Roman Empires."14 The first one, created by Augustus and still thriving in the time of John, was characterized by a confident Pax Romana (Roman peace) throughout the Medi­terranean world. But then the Troubled Century intervened with its many short-lived empe­rors, barbarian invasions, currency collapse, and pestilence, which killed a third of the population. After the establishment of the second empire by Diocletian, the key figure was Constantine. Through his conversion, he transformed it into the beginning of Christen­dom. This is the seventh head of Rev. 17.

     An emperor converted to a syncretic, Mythraic form of Christianity, Constantine esta­blished a theo­cracy. Into it, he brought the religious prerogatives he had inherited from his pagan pre­de­cessors, especially as reflected in two titles, which were closely inter­related. Ac­cording to the first he was supposedly “God on earth,” as were his Byzantine successors and later the Russian czars. As Napoleon Bonaparte said to Alexandr I, “I see that you are an emperor and a pope at the same time. How useful.”15 The Roman Caesars, personifying the state of Rome, demanded wor­ship. In this, they continued a tradition inherited from Meso­po­ta­mia and parti­cularly Egypt, which reached them through Alexander the Great as well as the Hel­lenistic kings who succeeded him. Often this was associated with sun worship. The emperor Constantine and those around him adapted this form of address. Instead of being a deity in his own right, he would be God on earth, as well as the Pontifex Maximus (“high priest”).16 The latter was the second title inherited from the pagan Roman emperors. It repre­sented Constantine as the intercessor between heaven and earth. To this, he added other titles: Bishop of Bishops and Vicarius Christi (the “Vicar of Christ”),17 as well as Isapo­stolos (“Equal of the Apostles”)18

     This theocratic conception, together with the titles that attended its birth, transformed the empire and Europe for centuries to come. As Roberts puts it, “Constantine I the Great, the first Roman emperor to profess Christianity, ini­tiated not only the evolution of the empire into a Christian state but also provided the impulse for a distinctively Christian culture that pre­pared the way for the growth of Byzantine and West­ern medieval culture.” This historian goes even further. He says, “by the of­fi­cial esta­blish­­ment of Christianity,” plus his other ar­range­­ments, Con­stan­tine “had re­gis­tered a deci­sive break with the tra­di­tion of classical Rome. Ulti­mate­ly, and unwit­ting­ly, he was found­ing Chris­tian Europe and, there­fore, the mo­dern world.”19 

     As the Byzantine Empire declined and later headed for extinction at the hands of the Turks, the pattern of closely linking church and state persisted in the West. There the bishop of Rome be­came the kingpin of Christendom. He arrogated to himself the very titles that formerly belonged to Con­stan­tine and other Byzantine emperors: God on earth, Pontifex Maximus, Vicarius Christi. For many medieval centuries, the popes—aspiring to an identical dignity—strove to be both religious and political rulers, especially in Italy, where they were literally monarchs over the Papal States until 1870. As Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), an im­mensely erudite man and “one of the greatest English political thinkers,”20 expressed it, the papacy was “no more than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof.”21 Though they constantly had to fight a sometimes losing battle against the kings and emperors of Europe, who cherished similar ambitions, the pontiffs exerted them­selves with every resource at their disposal to preserve their double Roman heritage as both political and religious rulers.

     The Vatican city state of today, with the pope as an abso­lute monarch, continues that tra­di­tion. Its potency, despite the diminutive size of its physical territory, was dramatically under­lined by the funeral of Pope John Paul II in April 2005. It was attended by more than two hundred VIP’s from all over the world, including President George W. Bush and two of his pre­de­cessors. This is how Samuele Bacchiocchi, a Protestant Italian of Waldensian pa­rent­age, describes that amazing scene:

     “Never before mankind had seen three United States Presidents kneeling for about five mi­­nutes in front of a pope’s casket, heads bowed, as choral music filled the majestic St. Peter’s Cathedral. Joining the American delegation were first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

     “More than 100 official delegations attended the funeral, including four kings, five queens, and more than 70 prime ministers. Countless dignitaries, cardinals, bishops, and over 700,000 people rubbed shoulders in St. Peter’s during the three hours ceremony of John Paul II’s funeral.”22

     To us today, the concept of Christendom has rather faded, but for most of history this was a key concept in the Mediter­rane­an world. As Margaret Aston points out, into the latter part of the fourteenth century it was still “more meaningful than Eu­rope.”23 Through all the medi­eval centuries, most people lived and died in local commu­nities under feudal lords, who often fought one an­other. For the ordinary person, travel was dangerous and roads uncertain. Coun­­tries, as we understand them, existed only in a rudi­­mentary way. What really mattered was feudalism, based on the family relationships of the ruling classes.

     Not even language, that striking national characteristic of our day, was useful in defining Europe. The majority of educated peo­ple, mostly clerics, did their read­ing and writing in Latin. Ver­na­cular speech forms did exist, but only as a multitude of dialects. For instance, “Dante reckoned that there were more than a thou­sand vari­eties of Italian vernacular in his day.” Only gradually, especially with the help of printing, invented halfway through the fif­teenth century, this profusion was whittled down and unitary lan­guages emerged.24

     Only by 1500, Europe—as we understand the concept—really emerged. The na­tional states were coming into focus, travel was more common, printing proliferated and rapidly spread know­­ledge far and wide, Bartholomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama opened the way to the Far East, Columbus found a way to reach America, and humankind began to think on a dif­­­ferent wavelength.

     But until those days not Europe but Christendom predo­mi­nated, and is still not an out­moded concept, although it has—for the time being—retreated into the back­ground of peo­ple’s think­ing. We shall later be returning to this point.

     Represented by the seventh head, Christendom survived the ever clearer subdivision into a Byzantine and a West­ern Empire. It also sur­vived the fragmentation of the latter into the states of Eu­rope and for many centuries found its center in the papacy.

     In further chapters, we shall have more to say about this entity. Here we only wish to point out that for interpreting the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation the contrasting ex­pressions Pagan Rome and Christian Rome—so popular with many writers over more than a century—need to be used with caution.

     Pagan Rome is a good and well-esta­blished synonym for the Greco-Roman Empire, and we do not wish to find fault with it. But when did that period end? With the Edict of Milan in 313, just after Constantine’s con­­ver­sion, or when he founded New Rome (Constantinople) in 330 as an ex­pli­citly Christian city.

     Pagan­ism lingered on for some time. Indeed, it blended with Chris­tianity to create a syn­cretic religion but overtly went into swift de­cline. It was largely extinguished by Theodosius I, the Great (379-95), the last emperor who ruled over both the Eastern and Western Em­pires. He “is known for his imposition of orthodox Christianity on the empire”25 and making it “an ingredient of good citizenship.” Under this powerful ruler, “many pagan temples were closed or even de­stroyed”26—including the celebrated shrine at Delphi27—so that in the writings of his contem­porary, Bishop Am­brose of Milan (374-97), the words “‘Roman’ and ‘Christian’ are almost synonyms.”28 The ancient capital Rome, it is true, at least in the fourth century, still remained a largely pagan city. “Dominated by proud sena­to­rial families,”29 it could hold out against the emperor. Yet within a hundred years or thereabouts most of these had also switched allegiance, and “just as the Roman upper class had once been associated with state paganism, so now it was tied to Christianity.”30

     In the light of such facts, it is peculiar to suggest, as various writers have done, that Pa­gan Rome endured until 476, when the West­ern Empire fell, or otherwise until the time of Justi­nian I during the Reconquest, in 538. It was in this year that the be­sieg­ing Ostro­goths failed to capture the eternal city and destroy the papacy. However, as our previous volume has shown, these people, too, were not pagans but members of the Ger­manic Church, though not Catholics. Their King Theodoric and his successors had ruled over Italy since 493.

     No, from Con­stantine to Justinian and afterwards the Roman Emperors, in the East as well as the West, were Christians, every man jack of them—except for Julian the Apostate (331-63), who ruled only briefly, a mere nineteen and a half months. These autocratic rulers used every means at their disposal to ensure that their subjects conformed to their imperial whims and wishes. The name Christian Rome (or, better, Christendom) should, pro­perly speaking, be used to describe the later, second Roman Empire and its European successor states, from the time of Con­stan­tine on­ward. 

     Many prophetic writers, however, apply this label to Catholicism or the papacy only in a later era, especially during the 1260 year-days of 538-1798. Although we also recognize this pe­riod as prophetically important, it does not coincide with the pontificate, whose beginnings ante­­date it by several cen­turies and which now—already more than two hundred years later—is still very much with us.

     Christian Rome is a confusing expression if applied exclusively to medieval, Catholic Europe. But does it not acquire a special meaning because the pope in the Middle Ages lorded it over all the kings and emperors in a secular as well as an ecclesiastical sense? This is another misconception, a myth, abundantly con­tradicted by his­tory. It is true that before the Reforma­tion the Catholic Church had well-nigh uni­versal sway over every part of West­ern Europe . . . though only in matters of religion, because the kings and empe­rors coope­rated with the Vatican. Except when they were weak, they did not, however, knuckle under to the popes in other matters. Powerful rulers like Charlemagne, Otto I, Philip the Fair, and Charles V were all good Catholics; but they also sought to dominate the pontiffs of their time. Sometimes they even believed that they were the head of the church.

     This is particularly well illustrated by the reign of Philip IV le Bel or the Fair (1268-1314), who ruled over France. At the jubilee of 1300, that papal braggart Boniface VIII (1294-1303) had worn a crown and waved a sceptre, shouting to the throng of pilgrims, “I am Caesar—I am Emperor!”31 For two hundred years, from the time of Hildebrand in the eleventh century, the popes had largely enjoyed both ecclesiastical and tem­poral supremacy. To insist on his own prerogatives and power, Boniface issued pretentious bulls, Clericis Laicos (1296), claiming tax exemption for the church, and Unam Sanctam (1302), to assert “the supre­macy over the temporal power.”32 But how soon his reign and life would be over!

     Philip tolerated no nonsense from any­body, including the pope. His ancestors, the Ca­petians, had for three hundred years been culti­vating the idea that their monarchy was or­dained of God, so he “believed the French throne to be more sacred than the papal one.”33

     This is the man whom Boniface dared to excommunicate; he was also about to do the same to France itself. The king acted against him promptly. In 1303, he sent his agents, who boldly man­handled the pope. This enraged the aged pontiff into insanity and death. When his suc­cessor, Benedict XI, was also considering excommunication, he died—apparently poi­soned. The next pope, Clement V (a Frenchman) feared the king so much that he helped him through the Inquisition to destroy the Knights Templar, power bastion of the papacy. He also an­nulled the Clericis Laicos and the Unam Sanctam, relocating himself with the Roman curia to Avignon in France,34 where the king and his spies could keep an eye on them.

     As Southern points out to conclude an enlightening analysis: “The situ­a­tion at the end of the Middle Ages tended—though with much greater com­pli­cation and political awareness—to ap­proximate to the situ­a­tion at the beginning. The secular ruler became the resi­duary legatee of eccle­si­as­tical power.”35

     Nowhere does the Bible suggest that for 1260 years the popes would rule over Europe in an absolute sense. It does, however, in Dan. 7 as in Rev. 13, depict the Antichrist as a power that would for this period persecute the saints of the Most High.

     A cause of further confusion is to equate Christian Rome with the Holy Roman Empire. The latter name describes the medieval symbiosis between church and state, from Christmas day in AD 800, when the pope crowned Charlemagne as a new Augustus Caesar.

     For reasons such as these, we prefer the word Christendom, which designates the entire period from Constantine to the present.


     After speaking about the heads, the Apocalypse goes on to say, “And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven” (Rev. 17:11). What entity is this? It is the scarlet beast, which “shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into per­dition” (vs. 8). As a pre­vious chapter has already demon­strated, it is identical with the great red dragon of Rev. 12. In other words, what these verses predict is that the devil will yet throw off the mask and directly take over the government of the world. 

     There will be an ultimate fulfillment of the Redeemer’s pre­diction about false Christs that will seek to counterfeit his return to the world (Matt. 24:24). The apostle Paul may also have had this in mind when he wrote, “Satan himself is trans­formed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14).

     According to Ellen White, the devil will very boldly try to imi­tate the Second Coming: “In different parts of the earth, Satan will ma­nifest himself among men as a ma­jestic being of dazzling bright­­ness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Reve­la­tion.” But those who truly serve the Lord will penetrate his disguise, because he will teach that he has changed the Sabbath, and he “is not permitted to counterfeit the manner of Christ’s advent.”36

     The eighth kingdom, with Satan as the overt ruler of our planet, may soon be set up in what a deluded world will consider the pros­perous and peaceful mil­len­nium that many have been expect­ing. For a short time, the devil can enjoy he worship that he has always craved. But suddenly the real Christ returns, and slays all finally im­pe­ni­­tent and wicked people by the brightness of his coming. Satan’s plans being inter­rupted, he cannot yet pro­­ceed with his plan to as­sume direct control of the human race.

     Instead, he is suddenly thrust into the “bot­tom­less pit,” what the original language calls the $LFF@H (ábys­sos, “abyss”). We have already noted that this is the very word which the Septuagint uses where it describes creation: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2. emphasis added). John’s original readers in the seven churches, Greeks who knew no Hebrew, ex­clusively used this trans­la­tion.

     Abyssos also suitably describes our planet at the end of days. Its at­mo­sphere stripped away, it is a gloomy wreck of its former self. For a thou­sand years, it will re­vert to a state of chaos similar to the one which existed before the Creator said, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). Bound by the chain or circumstances, Satan has only the fallen angels to keep him dis­mal company. Together, with fear and trem­bling, they await the Third Coming of Christ, when the damned of all the ages are to be re­surrected and they themselves must also face the last judgment. (Rev. 20:5, 7)

     So it is after the thousand years that the eighth kingdom, headed by the devil, fully—though briefly—becomes a reality. The re­sur­rected lost ones, who in their life­time chose and are now com­pelled to be his subjects, will include his followers from all seven of those pro­phetically im­portant periods—when Baby­lon, Medo-Persia, the Greeks, the Ro­mans, and the Papacy with Chris­ten­dom in tow enjoyed their day in the sun. In that sense, the eighth or dragon kingdom is “of the seven.”

     At this time, too, they will obey their elected leader as he ga­thers them toge­ther for a final, desperate onslaught to over­throw the kingdom of God with an ill-fated march on the New Jeru­sa­­lem. This is to be the devil’s journey to perdi­tion, as it must be theirs. Read the graphic details, as Scripture por­­trays them:

     “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to ga­ther them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and com­passed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brim­stone . . .” (Rev. 20:7-10)




     1. C. Mervyn Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 2:  The Message of Revelation for You and Your Family, 325.

     2. C.H. King, A History of Civilization, the Story of Our He­ritage, 237.

     3. Robert E. Lerner, Standish Meacham, and Edward Mc­Nall Burns, Mediterranean Map: “Greece and its Colonies in 550 B.C.,” West­ern Civilizations: Their History and Their Culture, facing 129.

     4. Ibid., 174.

     5. Encyclopaedia Britannica [1982], Macropedia (here­in­after cited as EB2, macro.), s.v. “Greek Civiliza­tion, Ancient.”

     6. J.B. Bury, A History of Greece: To the Death of Alexander the Great, 658-63.

     7. Michael Grant, The Founders of the Western World: A History of Greece and Rome, 49.

     8. Bury, A History of Greece, 105-106.   9. Ibid., 94.

   10. Grant, Founders of the Western World, 137.

   11. EB2, macro., s.v. “Hellenistic Religions.”

   12. R. Malcolm Errington, A History of Macedonia, 1-2.

   13. Francis D. Nichol, ed., et al., The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 4:824-25.

   14. Hugh R. Trevor-Roper, The Rise of Christian Europe, p. 27. 

   15. David Remnick, Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire, 361.

   16. David Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast, 46.   17. Ibid.

   18. John Julius Norwich, A Short History of Byzantium, 18.

   19. J.M. Roberts, Pelican History of the  World, 283, 284.

   20. EB2, macro, s.v. “Hobbes, Thomas.”

   21. Thomas Hobbes, qtd. in Michael De Semlyen, All Roads Lead to Rome? The Ecumenical Movement, 168.

   22. Samuele Bacchiocchi, “The Papacy: Retrospect and Prospect, Part I,” Endtime Issues Newsletter No. 129, 3 May 2005.

   23. Margaret  Aston, The Fifteenth Century: The Prospect of Europe, 9.   24. Ibid., 42.

   25. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia [1982], s.v. “Theodosius I the Great..”

   26. EB2, macro., s.v. “Christianity” in “II. From Constantine to Gregory the Great.”

   27. Paul Theroux, The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean, 315.

   28. EB2, macro., s.v. “Christianity” in “II. From Constantine to Gregory the Great.”

   29. EB2, macro., s.v. “Rome.”  

   30. Paul Johnson, History of Christianity, 131.

   31. Roy Edwin Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fa­thers: The Histo­rical Development of Prophetic Inter­pre­tation, 1:681.

   32. EB2, macro., s.v. “Boniface VIII, Pope.”       

   33. Stephen Howarth, The Knights Templar, 256.

   34. EB2, macro., s.v. “Philip IV, the Fair, of France.”       

   35. Southern, Richard William. Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (Vol. 2 of The Pelican History of the Church), 159     

   36. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan, 705.


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