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Chapter 4

The Perplexing Little Horn

 

Three biblical scholars, all of whom lived in the early years of the transfer of the capital of Imperial Rome to Constantinople, the event which was to seal the doom of the Western Roman Empire and cede its authority to the Papacy, also wrote profound thoughts about the antichrist. Their insights no doubt enlivened the interest of both the Roman Catholic and Protestant reformers.

Cyril of Jerusalem (315—386) had concluded from his study of Scripture that,

There shall arise, at the same time, ten kingdoms of the Romans at different places indeed, the reigning of all of them at the same time. After them the eleventh will be antichrist, who, through magical wickedness, will seize the power of the Romans. (Samuel J. Cassels, Christ and Antichrist, p. 12—extracted from Cat. xv.5)

The second Christian expositor to compare scripture with scripture on this subject was Jerome (347—420), the translator of Scripture into the Latin language. His translation is still highly regarded by the Roman Catholic Church—The Latin Vulgate Version. Indeed it was from the Latin Vulgate that John Wycliffe, who was not privileged to have access to Greek manuscripts, translated the Bible into English in the fourteenth century.

Jerome linked the antichrist to a passage in Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians. There Paul used pejorative language concerning an evil influence in the Christian Church.

Be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (II Thessalonians 2:2—12)

Jerome, with no small measure of insight, stated, referring to this passage,

Says the apostle, "Unless the Roman Empire should first be desolated and antichrist proceed, Christ will not come." (Ibid.—extracted from Algasae, Ques. 2)

Jerome’s contemporary, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, was the third scholar to identify the link between the antichrist of John’s epistles and Paul’s passage in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. Augustine wrote,

It can be doubted by none that he [Paul] speaks of these things [see II Thessalonians 2:2—12 above] concerning antichrist, and that the day of judgment will not come unless he first appear. (Ibid.—extracted from De Civitate Dei i,20, 19)

It is apparent that these early Christian students of the Bible discovered other synonyms for the antichrist in Scripture. This was true also of the Protestant Reformers of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, including John Wycliffe, Jan Huss, Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox. Also eighteenth century Reformers such as John Wesley and men such as the renowned physicist and mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton, made similar discoveries. Thus Samuel Cassels, the Presbyterian church historian of the nineteenth century, remarked,

The Reformers generally, and since them the great body of Protestants, have uniformly employed this term [the antichrist] to designate "the man of sin" of the apostle Paul [2 Thessalonians 2:2—12], the "little horn" of Daniel [Daniel 7] and the "beast" predicted by John [Revelation chapters 13 and 17]. (op. cit. pp. 12, 13)

Cassels could have added, Babylon of Revelation chapters 14,16,17,18, and the whore of Revelation 17.

What is clear is that the little horn of Daniel chapter 7 received much study as men attempted to identify the antichrist.

Four beasts are depicted in this prophecy of Daniel 7. We should not be surprised by such symbolism for it is commonly used today by nations and even by sporting teams. China is symbolized by the panda, Russia by the bear, the United States by an eagle, Britain by the lion, Australia by a kangaroo and New Zealand by a kiwi.

The winged lion was to be found throughout the bas-reliefs of ancient Babylon. The Pergamon Museum in Berlin contains the most extensive Babylonian archaeological exhibits featuring the winged lion.

The prophecy of Daniel 7 is undoubtedly an expansion of that of Daniel 2. It is in this prophecy that the symbol of the little horn, the focus of the study of the antichrist, is to be found. The identification of the little horn symbol has caused perplexity to many Bible students, but this confusion need not be. God inspired the Scriptures that they may be understood by the common people. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth (John 16:13). Thus not a university degree, but the possession of God’s Spirit is prerequisite to the understanding of prophecy.

The prophecy of Daniel 7 repeats the history of the four empires found in Daniel 2. That these four strange beasts symbolized kingdoms cannot be doubted. In words that brook no double meaning God declared,

The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom. (Daniel 7:23, emphasis added)

We notice here a principle found in the prophecies of the books of Daniel and Revelation. While symbols are used throughout, the numbers are always literal as we see in the divine explanation above. The beasts are manifestly symbolic of kingdoms but the number of beasts is confirmed as literal. The last "beast" is the fourth kingdom—no more, no less.

We will briefly pass through these four kingdoms. We are not surprised that the first beast, the Babylonian kingdom, is represented as—

a lion and had eagles wings. (Daniel 7:4)

Daniel chapter 5 recounts Medo-Persia’s conquest of Babylon.

Medo-Persia is represented by a bear raised on one side in order to indicate that this joint empire of the Medes and the Persians consisted of two nations of unequal power. Indeed, illustrating Medo-Persia as a ram with two horns in the parallel prophecy of Daniel 8 we clearly see this inequality illuminated once more.

Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. (Daniel 8:3)

Scripture declares plainly that this ram represents Medo-Persia.

The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. (Daniel 8:20)

Thus the Bible clearly removes all doubt. Although Persia arose to prominence later than Media, it became the more powerful portion in the condominium. The three ribs in the mouth of the bear may be identified by history in the three major nations routed by the Medo-Persian armies—Babylon, Lydia and Egypt.

The third beast, a leopard, was described as follows:

After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. (Daniel 7:6)

The wings on this leopard symbolize the speed of its conquests from the Balkan Peninsula to India and into Africa. This beast is undoubtedly the Empire of Greece, founded by the youthful king, Alexander the Great, whose thirst for conquest knew no bounds. Indeed, in the parallel prophecy in Daniel chapter 8 where the same kingdom is depicted at war with Medo-Persia (See Daniel 8:5—8), we see that the he-goat (Greece) "ran unto him [the ram representing Medo-Persia] in the fury of his power." The Bible specifically names Greece as the nation here symbolized.

And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power. (Daniel 8:21, 22)

Identifying the first king represented by the great horn requires no deep knowledge of history. Alexander the Great of Macedon is so renowned that nearly every high school student is aware of his military feats. More research is required in order to determine the four less powerful kingdoms into which Alexander’s kingdom divided upon his untimely death at the age of thirty-two.

These Hellenistic kingdoms, symbolized by four lesser horns, were first ruled by Alexander’s four generals—Cassander ruled Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus became king of Thrace and Asia Minor; Ptolemy contented himself with a realm incorporating Egypt, Palestine and Cyrenia; and Seleucus was accorded sovereignty over Syria and the conquered regions to the east. The four heads in the leopard beast of Daniel 7 bore the same significance as the four horns on the rough goat of Daniel 8. After 281 b.c., upon the death of Lysimachus, the Hellenistic kingdoms contracted to three in number with the major centers of rulership being located in Macedonia, Egypt and Syria.

The fourth beast of Daniel’s prophecy defied description. Daniel’s depiction of the beast is inadequate, for manifestly no earthly animal came close to its features.

After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7:7)

That this beast represented the mighty power of Imperial Rome cannot be disputed, for history confirms that Rome overran the Greek Empire and spread its control also to the far reaches of Western Europe.

"It had ten horns," the Scripture reveals. We have already identified these ten horns as the ten nations of western Europe which arose from the demise of the Western Roman Empire. Just as the four horns on the rough goats of Daniel 8 were specifically stated in Daniel 8:22 to be representative of four kingdoms into which the Greek empire fractured, so too do these ten horns of the nondescript beast of Daniel 7:7 represent the fragmentation of the Western Roman Empire into ten kingdoms. These assignments we will confirm in the following chapter.

However, after tracing this period of almost one millennium from the rise of Babylon to the fall of Rome, the focus of Daniel chapter 7 shifts to the strange little horn.

I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things. (Daniel 7:8)

The identification of this little horn will now be examined in the chapter entitled "The Little Horn Among the Ten Horns."

 


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