- In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and told the following summary of it (Daniel 7:1)
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon. This places the time of the vision as occurring toward the end of the Babylonian empire. Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon. This ties in closely with the account in the fifth chapter, where Belshazzar made a great feast and handwriting appeared on the wall and that night the kingdom was taken by the Medes and the Persians. This vision then occurs perhaps thirty or thirty-five years after the great dream image that was recorded in Chapter 2. This time it is Daniel that has a dream and this is his summary of it.
Daniel said, “I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea (Daniel 7:2)
The four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. This perhaps pointing to the Mediterranean Sea. Each one of the empires mentioned in this vision had a geographical connection to the Mediterranean Sea. The “four winds of heaven” usually stand for the four points (North, South, East, West) of the compass (Jeremiah 49:34). Here, however, the winds are pictured as actual forces dashing down upon the sea, which probably points to the various political and social agitations which disturb the world’s history. Something is about to rise up from the sea.
And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another (Daniel 7:3)
Four large, ferocious animals emerged from the Sea, each one distinct from the other. A little later (Daniel 7:17) Daniel tells us that these four beasts are four kingdoms ruling over the earth.
The first was like a lion but had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and set up on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it (Daniel 7:4)
The first kingdom is the Babylonian Empire, represented by a lion and an eagle. This fits in well with the majesty and authority of Nebuchadnezzar in his reign over the empire of Babylon. Jeremiah used both the lion and the eagle as pictures of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 49:19-22), and Babylon’s winged lions can be seen at the British Museum today. But this majestic beast was humbled as the wings were plucked off and made to stand as a mere man. The meaning of the symbol is not difficult. The ferocity, and the power, and the energy of the lion would now be replaced with the comparative weakness of a man.
And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and they said this to it: ‘Arise, devour much meat!’ (Daniel 7:5)
Another beast, which is the second one, is a bear, which represented the Medo-Persian Empire, that succeeded the Babylonian Empire. In this partnership between the Medes and the Persians, the Persians dominated the relationship, therefore it is said that “it was raised up on one side”. Most think the three ribs represent their three great military conquests: Babylon, Egypt and Lydia. The command to arise and devour much flesh indicates the extreme cruelties often practiced by the Persians, and the wide extent of their conquests.
After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it (Daniel 7:6)
Then came the leopard represented by the Greek Empire. Alexander the Great quickly and swiftly conquered the civilized world by age 28, which appears to be represented by the swiftly flying “wings of a bird” it had. After his death his empire was divided into four parts (or four heads). Specifically, the four heads were Casander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy, who inherited Alexander’s domain after his death.
After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns (Daniel 7:7)
The fourth beast was indescribable, and uniquely horrific in its power and conquest, portrayed also with large “iron teeth” able to crush his opposes. In the ancient world horns expressed the power and fearsomeness of an animal. This fourth beast was so strong it had ten horns. In historical fulfillment, the fourth beast represents the Roman Empire, which was the largest, strongest, most unified and enduring of them all. It had ten horns, which represents rulers and kings.
While I was thinking about the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the previous horns were plucked out before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like human eyes, and a mouth uttering great boasts (Daniel 7:8)
While I was thinking about the horns. That is while Daniel was thinking about all the ten horns.
Another horn, a little one, came up among them. The text does not say the little horn came up “after them”, meaning after the 10th horn, but “among them”. This little horn is not a 11th horn, but a horn among the ten, that started out to be “little”, but grew in size compared to its associates (that is the other 9 horns). Daniel does not see the ten horns coming up one after another. Therefore, the ten horns appear to come up as a totality, but a little one becomes “larger in appearance than its associates” (Daniel 7:20).
Three of the previous horns were plucked out before it. From among the ten horns, three are replaced by this little horn.
“I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were serving Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court convened, And the books were opened (Daniel 7:9-10)
I kept looking Until thrones were set up. When the Apostle John saw heaven, he also saw thrones, but he also saw those who sat on those thrones – the 24 elders described in Revelation 4:4. Daniel made no mention of these elders, perhaps because the 24 elders represent the church, and the church was an unrevealed mystery to Old Testament saints (Ephesians 3:1-7). Thrones being set up indicate rulership and reign in heaven.
And the Ancient of Days took His seat. Daniel 7:13 seems to make a distinction between the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man, and this supports the idea that the Ancient of Days here is God the Father, not God the Son.
His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool. White represents age, righteousness, purity and justice. God is a wise and righteous judge, and he is about to sit before a judgement scene.
His throne was ablaze with flames: This was a brilliant manifestation of God’s splendor and the fierce heat of His judgment. There seems to be something lava-like in the stream of fire pouring from the throne; it was like a river of vast destructive power. “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).
Its wheels a burning fire. Many commentators say that in the ancient eastern world royal thrones were often on wheels. Yet it is just as likely that they represent the endless activity of God.
A thousand upon thousands ministered to Him and myriads. This describes the innumerable company of angels surrounding the throne of God. This must also include the saints in heaven represented by the 24 elders.
Court was seated, and the books were opened. The Almighty is represented as holding a court of judgement in heaven. The Bible describes several books before God, and any of these or combination of these could be meant. The book of the living (Psalm 69:28). The book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16). The Book of Life (Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27 and 22:19). Some power is going to be judged. Who is it?
Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was killed, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time (Daniel 7:11-12).
The sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking. Here the “little horn” of the fourth beast speaks pompous words. It appears he is the one that is going to be judged.
I watched till the beast was killed and its body was destroyed. This could happen only as a result of the judge’s verdict. The little horn is not judged alone. The beast (Roman Empire) will be punished for all its horns and sins. Though the verdict may not be executed instantly, the verdict is final.
The rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away. The destiny of the first three beasts (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece) is different. They are stripped out of their political dominion, though their life continue as nations without dominion for a God ordained time.
“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Honor, and a kingdom, So that all the peoples, nations, and populations of all languages Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).
And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man was coming. Clouds represented divine presence or judgement. The title Son of Man was a favorite self-designation of Jesus, used more than 80 times in the four Gospels. When Jesus ascended, “a cloud took Him up” (Acts 1:9). Here, Jesus moves with the clouds of heaven. Where does He go?
And He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. The Hebrew expression “came up to” is used for someone being brought before a royal audience. This is not Jesus coming to earth at the second coming, but Jesus ascending to the Father after his resurrection, and He is to be enthroned before all the hosts of heaven. John Calvin, among others, saw this as a reference to Christ’s ascension to heaven at the first coming. See Appendix 1: Origins of Futurism, Preterism, Historicism.
And to Him was given dominion, Honor, and a kingdom, so that all the peoples, nations, and populations of all languages Might serve Him. Christ receives all dominion, honor, and worship. The reign of Jesus begins at His ascension and will be consummated when He creates the new heavens and new earth, so that all the peoples, nations, and tribes will serve Him.
“As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. I approached one of those who were standing by and began requesting of him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things” (Daniel 7:15-16).
Daniel saw all this, and in more detail than he describes for us. He did not really understand all that he saw and was troubled because of his lack of understanding.
These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth (Daniel 7:17)
The divine interpretation of the dream shows that this vision covers the same material as Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in Daniel 2, which also described the rise of four empires, or four kings (same as kingdoms) which will be succeeded by the kingdom of God.
But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and take possession of the kingdom forever, for all ages to come (Daniel 7:18)
The saints of the Highest One, who is none other than Jesus, will receive the kingdom, which is an eternal kingdom.
“Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet (Daniel 7:19)
Daniel desired to know more about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceeding dreadful, which is the Roman Empire.
And the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, and before which three of the horns fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts, and which was larger in appearance than its associates (Daniel 7:20)
Daniel desired to know more about the ten horns, and the little horn that grew larger among them, and plucked out three of the horns. The little horn started out little but was “larger in appearance than its associates”. Size may indicate it started out small, temporal in power, but its power grew, and it spoke boastfully. It says it had “eyes” which are often associated with pride (Isaiah 2:11, 5:15).
I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom (Daniel 7:21-22).
Horn was waging war with the saints. This horn was successful in its war against God’s people, and prevailed for some time, but not for too long. Who came in judgement against this horn power?
Until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One. The little horn was judged by God the Father and would not continue to persecute the saints. Instead, “judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One”, meaning justice was granted to the saints by the act of judging and putting an end to the little horn’s schemes. Judgment includes the granting of the “kingdom” to the saints.
The time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom. The giving of the kingdom to the saints of the Most High began when Christ established his kingdom on this earth. “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). “To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, and He has made us to be a kingdom…” (Revelation 1:5-8). The church is His kingdom now on earth.
“This is what he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth which will be different from all the other kingdoms, and will devour the whole earth and trample it down and crush it (Daniel 7:23)
The fourth beast signifies the Roman Empire, which was different in character from all the kingdoms. By the whole world, it is meant, wherever the Roman Empire became masters of, and caused destruction and desolation.
As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will humble three kings (Daniel 7:24)
As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom (malkuw) ten kings (melek) will arise. The Bible clearly says the ten kings (ten horns) will arise out of this kingdom meaning from within the Roman Empire. This could not possibly refer to outside entities or European tribes that invaded and conquered Western Rome. The kings arise from within. Note well that the ten horns are “kings.” The Aramaic word used is melek which literally means “king” and is only translated “king” in the Old Testament. It is never translated as “nation” or “kingdom”. If the ten horns were ten nations that defeated the Roman Empire, then Daniel would have used the word malkuw (kingdom).
And another will arise after them. After them means, after he saw the ten horns that arose, “from among them” (Daniel 7:8) another one of the horns will arise starting out little but became “larger in appearance than its associates” (Daniel 7:20) and will pluck out three kings. In other words, the little horn was seen coming up last among all the others, because he was different, and not because he was chronologically the last one to rule in time.
Therefore, the ten horns represent ten kings or rulers of the Roman Empire. Now “ten” in prophesy can symbolize totality of its rulers or powers. After all, Roman empire was not ruled by just 10 rulers. However, since Daniel is concerned with the coming of Christ’s spiritual kingdom (Daniel 2), there is another fitting interpretation.
Interestingly, history records that there were, in fact, ten Roman Caesars who ruled Rome prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. The first king was Julius Caesar. According to historical sources, Julius Caesar played a critical part in ending the Roman Republic and establishing the Roman Empire. In fact, he was the first historical Roman to be officially deified. Here then are the ten Caesars (kings) that ruled before the destruction of Jerusalem:
- Julius Caesar 49-44BC
- Augustus (also known as Octavian) 31BC-14AD
- Tiberius (Luke 3:1) 14-37AD
- Gaius (also known as Caligula) 37-41AD
- Claudius (Acts 17) 41-54AD
- Nero 54-68AD
- Galba 68-69AD
- Otho 69AD
- Vitellius 69AD
- Vespasian 69-79AD
John Calvin, among others, held that the ten horns in Daniel 7 referred to Caesars. The early church recognized Nero as the “antichrist”. Jerome noted in his commentary on Daniel: “And so there are many of our viewpoint who think that Domitius Nero was the Antichrist because of his outstanding savagery and depravity.” Many scholars hold that the Little Horn of Daniel 7 is Caesar Nero. His actual birth name was Lucius. The Latin meaning of Lucius is Light Bearer. The name Lucius is a synonym of the name Lucifer. Many Christians in the early centuries regarded Nero Caesar as the anti-Christ. Interestingly enough, his Hebrew name numerically adds up to 666.
He will humble three kings. Three Emperors, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius were assassinated to make way for Nero, who was not in the line of succession.
And he will speak against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time (Daniel 7:25).
And he will speak against the Most High. Nero encouraged emperor worship and had a huge statue of himself erected in Rome. Inscriptions found in Ephesus called him “Almighty God” and “Saviour….”
Wear down the saints of the Highest One. Nero is different from the rest of the Caesars in that he is the only one from Julius to Titus to persecute Christians. Hence, Nero was the first Roman emperor to launch a persecution against Jews and Christians. Some of the saints slain during his persecution include the apostles Paul and Peter. Historians have described the persecution as “the most cruel that ever occurred.”
They will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time. Time (1 year), Times (2 years) and half a time (1/2 year) equals to 3 ½ years or 1260 days. Nero’s persecution began in November of 64 AD and ended with his death in June of AD 68, a period of 42 months (1260 days).
He will intend to make alterations in times and in law. Change in “times” and seasons refers to changing kings. “It is He [God] who changes the times and the periods; He removes kings and appoints kings” (Daniel 2:21). Nero tried to alter constitutions of kingdoms and to set up and pull-down kings at pleasure. Tacitus Annals records that Nero “uprooted” three Parthian the kings, Vologases I, Tigranes, and Tiridates I in the Armenian wars AD 43-66.
Nero changed and intended to change laws. The word Law in Daniel 7:25 is the word “dat” meaning “decree”, not “Torah”. Thus, this is speaking of a ruler who would change laws is not in reference to the Decalogue and certainly the Sabbath is not in view. In declaring war on Jerusalem, Nero officially changed the treaty law between Israel and Rome that dates to 161 BC. Nero sent Vespasian to destroy Jerusalem in December AD 66 as an act of formally breaking the treaty.
Moreover, few emperors were more lawless than Nero. The great Roman historian Tacitus describes his lawless behavior in his writings. Nero was known for numerous brutal executions, including that of his own mother. When his second wife, pregnant at the time, complained that he had returned home late from the races, Nero kicked her and her unborn baby to death. He killed his Aunt by having her poisoned. Nero was a non-stop assault on marriage, the family, and the law of God. Nero had two homosexual marriages to men. When he wed Pythagoras, Nero put on the bride’s veil, and Pythagoras was the “groom.” According to Tacitus, Nero engaged in “every filthy, depraved illicit act.”
But the court will convene for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever (Daniel 7:26).
But the court will convene for judgment. Why? So that his dominion will be taken away. God judged this little horn power. The Roman Senate eventually voted to put Nero to death, thus effectively taking away his dominion. In 68 AD, after a turbulent 13-year reign, the Roman senate ran out of patience and declared Nero a public enemy. Nero then fled, and on June 9, 68 AD, at the age of 30, he committed suicide. With the death of Nero, the empire was thrown into a series of civil wars that left Rome burned and Italy in ruins. In the space of one year and 22 days, four emperors came to the throne: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. The history of this time was unprecedented in world annals and clearly marked Christ’s coming in judgment against the persecutors of his church.
Who is being judged? As noted earlier, the judgment of Daniel 7 is a judgment against the little horn and the beast power, not an investigative judgment of the saints as Seventh-day Adventists would teach. It was the Roman Empire, under the guidance of Satan, acting through a Roman governor and Roman soldiers, that crucified the Son of God. The judgment, although decided in heaven, was not instantly executed upon Rome when Jesus died, just as Jerusalem was not instantly punished. Time was given to allow for Rome to manifest what it was going to do with Christ and Christianity. So, because the court in heaven convened for judgment, the little horn’s dominion will be taken away, but who will be bestowed the dominion instead?
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 empires will serve and obey Him.’ (Daniel 7:27).
The dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms will be given to the people. Who will be bestowed this dominion? The people. “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). We have been already transferred to the kingdom of Christ, and this kingdom will be fully consummated when Jesus creates a new heaven and new earth.
It is a mistake to think this passage is a reference to God’s eternal literal kingdom that will be realized after the second coming of Christ. This is a reference to the establishment of God’s spiritual kingdom, which was announced in approximately 30 AD when John the Baptist announced, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2).
Christ talked about the “kingdom” as being contemporary, present while He was on earth, not in the far distant future.
“But if I cast out the demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:28)
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19)
Daniel wrote about a kingdom that gradually fills the earth (Dan. 2:34-35). Jesus spoke of a Mustard seed which grew into a great tree (Matt. 13:31-33). Therefore, the giving of the kingdom to the saints of the Most High began when Christ established his spiritual kingdom on this earth, and the kingdom continues to grow until one day Jesus will create a new heavens and new earth, and all people and powers will serve and obey Him.
Jesus’ death was as a mustard seed being planted in the earth. After His resurrection, the gospel sprouted and spread throughout the empire. Nero and later Caesars manifested a satanic hatred towards Christianity. They thought to persecute it into non-existence, and Nero almost succeeded. However, he was killed, his persecution halted and his dominion was taken away. The very persecution he started in an attempt to stamp out Christianity would later become the seed that fueled an even more explosive growth of Christianity. Eventually the dominion of Satan was broken in the Roman Empire and it became the dominion of the saints. Christianity was recognized as the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 AD.
Every specification of Daniel 7 came to pass just as predicted. In fact, the fulfillment is so incredible that atheists and agnostics have long insisted the book of Daniel was written after Nero’s death. At the time they were making such claims, the oldest copies of Daniel were dated a thousand years after Christ. However, these enemies of God were silenced when the book of Daniel was discovered amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls. In all, eight copies of the book were found. The oldest was carbon-dated to 165 BC. That was long before Nero or any of the ten Caesars. Only God could have known the unfolding of the Roman Empire hundreds of years beforehand. Praise God!
At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face became pale, but I kept the matter to myself (Daniel 9:28).
Many things might trouble Daniel at this vision – such as the ferocity of the attack to come against his people from the conspicuous horn. Daniel was convinced that the prophecy was true, and that it was the word of God. He was so convinced of its truth that his countenance changed and he considered what would happen his people and the saints of God.
Alternative interpretation: Emperor Domitian as the 11th horn
Some scholars apply the little horn to Emperor Domitian (the son of Emperor Vespasian), who is viewed as the 11th horn, coming after the ten horns. He was the 11th emperor of Rome. He revived the imperial cult and promoted emperor worship (boastful). Domitian attempted to change the legal and calendar systems under his rule (change laws). It is said the outright persecution under Domitian lasted this long (3 1/2 years). After him, while Rome continued for a time (Daniel 7:12), they did not exercise the dominion or authority of Domitian. Indeed, what followed next were known as the “good emperors”, who ruled relatively benevolently. Domitian appears to be also a possible fit for the little horn.
Other commentators apply this little horn symbol to either the papacy or the entire Roman Empire and later pagan institutions that arose from the influence of Greece and Rome. Martin Luther applied it to the Turks. Such an application can be made. However, extending the interpretation of the “Little Horn” beyond AD 70 is irrelevant to the context and purposes of Daniel as we saw from Daniel 2.
Seventh-day Adventist interpretation
1) SDA’s teach that the ten horns are ten tribes that conquered the western Roman Empire. Out of the twenty or more tribes that actually conquered the western Roman Empire, Adventists selected ten tribes (as some others have done) and declared that these ten were the tribes represented by the ten horns (Vandals, Ostrogoths, Heruli, Visigoths, Burgundians, Anglo-Saxons, Alamani, Suevi, Lombards and Franks). Daniel 7:24 makes it abundantly clear that the ten horns are not other nations that conquer Rome: “As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise”. The Bible clearly says the ten kings will arise from within the Roman Empire. Contrast that with the tribes that SDA’s give. The tribes all arose outside of the Roman Empire. Moreover, the Bible says the ten horns are kings (melek), not nations or tribes. Besides, history says over forty tribes fought with the Roman Empire, not ten. If God wanted to indicate 40 plus tribes he would have indicated with 40 plus horns.
2) SDA scholars agree will all scholars that the horn growing on the head of the Goat in Daniel 8 represents Alexandar the Great. When that one large horn is later replaced by four smaller horns, SDAs likewise teach the Greek Macedonian empire was later ruled by Alexander’s four generals. It is inconsistent for SDAs to interpret the horns on the head of the fourth beast of Daniel 7 as nations that conquered that beast while at the same time teaching that the horns of Daniel 8 are kings that arose from within that nation! The Bible imagery throughout the book of Daniel (and also in the book of Revelation) consistently signifies that horns growing on the head of a beast represent the kings or leaders of that empire. To teach that those horns are actually outside powers that invade and conquer the beast is totally inconsistent with the imagery and Biblical usage of the horn symbol. While king or kingdom could be used interchangeably depending on the context, when horns are growing on the head of a beast, it represents leaders of that kingdom.
3) SDA’s teach the little horn is the Papacy and it uprooted three tribes: Vandals, Ostrogoths, and Heruli. Firstly, the Holy Scripture states that the fourth beast (pagan Rome) “had ten horns that were in his head” “out of this kingdom (7:20, 21) and the “other” little horn also “came up among them” “in his head” (Dan 7:8, 20-211). Contrary to what SDAs teach, the Vandals, Heruli and Ostrogoths were never kingdoms of ruled by pagan Rome. They did not originate out of pagan Rome. They had to if we are to be true the words of Scripture without reading into it.
Then, none of these tribes were destroyed by the Pope (Papacy benefited from their destruction by the hand of others). Any history textbook will explain that the Heruli were defeated by the Lombards, the Vandals and Ostrogoths by the Byzantines. (see: www.historyworld.net ; www.britannica.com/topic/Heruli). Besides, contrary to what SDAs teach, the Vandals, Heruli and Ostrogoths were never kingdoms ruled by pagan Rome. None came “up out of this kingdom.” All three were Arian invaders from outside Western Rome.
Further, Holy Scripture says that the three horns were “plucked up by the root” (7:8). This means that they were destroyed and not merely pushed out. Again, history disagrees with the SDA version. First, the Arian Heruli were defeated in 508 by Arian Lombards who were enemies of the papacy. Instead of being destroyed (plucked up), the Heruli migrated back to Scandinavia. Second, the Vandals who had sacked Rome in 455 and had settled in north Africa were not a hindrance to papal of Christians in 538. The Vandals had been defeated in Africa in 534 when the Eastern Roman Empire regained its territory in North Africa. The Vandals were not “plucked up by the roots” because of the papal little horn. Instead they were conquered by Eastern Emperor Justinian in 534 because he was reconquering lost territory for the Eastern Greek Church. Third, the Ostrogoths do not fit the prophecy either. Though momentarily defeated in north Italy in 538 by the Eastern Empire, they returned to besiege Rome again in 546, 549 and 550. Pope Vigilius (538-555) was powerless and never began “wearing out the saints” (7:25). Instead of being “plucked up by the roots,” the Ostrogoths were slowly absorbed by the Arian Lombards who ruled much of Italy for centuries after 568.
4) Is papacy guilty of boastfulness. It is true the Catholic Church has made some arrogant claims.
5) Persecutes God’s saints. It is true that the Roman Catholic Church persecuted its enemies, although that practice ceased by the mid-nineteenth century. The vast majority of the 1260 years revealed weak popes who could seldom “wear out the saints”. In fact, 666 of the 1260 years had passed before these persecutions began.
6) Rules for 1260 years. Adventists interpret this period as beginning in 538 AD and ending in 1798 AD, but there is no historical justification for picking these dates at the exclusion of other dates. For much of the time between 538 and 1798, large parts of Europe were under the rule of non-Catholics. Southern and Eastern Europe was under the rule of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires during much of Rome’s supposed “rule” or supremacy over the world. Much of the Mediterranean region, including parts of Spain, was under the control of Moslems during this period. After 1600, Protestants gained the upper hand in Northern Europe and North America. It is an exaggeration to claim that Rome “ruled” the world for 1260 years. See also the problems with year-day principle.
Moreover, SDA prophetic interpretation errs because the papacy very definitely did not begin punishing non-Christians for their faith in 538. Although it was responsible for killing fellow Christians in Constantinople in 1204, murdered Albigensians in 1209, Inquisition would not begin in France and Waldensians in 1527, 666 of the 1260 years had passed before these persecutions began. If the “saints” are true Christians inside the Western Roman Catholic Church, “made war with the saints” does not make sense because, from 538 until 1146, there was no “war” against fellow Catholic Christians. The first 600 years of the prophecy would be wrong, plus many failed Crusades were against Muslim Turks.
Further, contrary to the description of the powerful little horn of Daniel 7:21-25, the pope was personally imprisoned, beaten and/or killed at least 13 times from 538-1798. This fact alone should disprove the SDA interpretation of the little horn. Imprisoned or killed: 538, 795, 872, 884, 896, 897, 898, 903, 904, 914, 939, 983, 1124.
ROME, THE PAPAL STATES AND ITALY WERE OFTEN BESIEGED, OCCUPIED AND PLUNDERED. This happened at least 60 times between 538 and 1798 by at least 18 kingdoms covering every decade. Rome was difficult to protect and was easy prey to Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Lombards, Normans, Saracens and others. Also, whenever the pope disobeyed a ruler or tried to impose their authority, the result was usually a march to plunder Rome, the Papal States, or Italy itself. Again, this is not the description of the biblical little horn persecuting the saints. Lives of the Popes, by Richard McBrien, a leading Roman Catholic historian from the University of Notre Dame records the failure of Popes. McBrien is very blunt and honest about the failures of the popes. The literal historical facts should prove beyond doubt that the Roman Catholic papacy does not fulfill the prophecy of the biblical Anti-Christ little horn for (the SDAs) 1260 years from 538 to 1798.
In the issue of Endtime Issues (#86), SDA scholar Samuel Bacchiochi writes:
“The first problem is the questionable significance of 538. We noted earlier that Justinian’s triumph over the Ostrogoths in 538 was short-lived, because under their new leader, Totila, the Ostrogoths quickly captured most of their lost territories. In other words, this event did not significantly boost the power of the Papacy, which still faced constant harassment from various rulers for centuries to come.”
Bacchiocchi goes on to say: “The second problem with the traditional interpretation is its failure to account for the basic meaning of this prophetic period. The persecution and protection of the church did not begin in 538, nor did it end in 1798. These are realities that have characterized the whole history of God’s church throughout the centuries. Some of the most bloody persecutions by Roman emperors occurred during the first four centuries.”
He writes: “The death of Pius VI can hardly be seen as the ‘abolishment’ or ‘the downfall of the Papacy.’ It was simply a temporary humiliation of the prestige of the Papacy. In fact, Pius VI was able to give directives for the election of his successor. Few months after his death, the Cardinals met in Venice on December 8, 1799, and elected Barnaba Chiaramonti, who took the name of Pious VII, in deference to his predecessor.
“The following years marked, not the downfall, but the resurgence of papal authority, especially under the Pontificate of Pius IX (1846-1878). In 1854, Pius IX promulgated the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
Ranko Stefanovic, Ph. D., an SDA Professor of New Testament at Andrews University agrees with Bachiochi and he writes: “I agree with you that A. D. 538 has been exaggerated; in order to get that date, the year 1798 was established first, and then the 1260 years were deducted from it” (Source: Endtimes issues )
Anyone who has studied Christian history can verify that the dates of 538 and 1798 do not accurately mark the beginning and ending dates of the period of papal supremacy. The Bishop of Rome was consolidating power centuries before 538, and the papacy continued to grow and thrive even after the temporary setback of 1798. These dates were used by Adventists because they were convenient, as some others (historicists) had used them to fit a preconceived idea. These dates fit nicely into the prophetic jigsaw puzzle they were building. The dates were picked because they fit in the puzzle, not because they actually delineated the years of papal supremacy or holds up to good exegesis.
7) SDA’s teach that the papacy changed the Sabbath commandment. Seventh-day Adventist misquote certain Roman Catholic & Protestant Confessions as proof that the Roman Catholic Church changed it. But in this SDA’s ignore, fail to state, another claim which all these same Roman Catholic authorities always make just as strongly, namely, that their Roman Catholic Church extends back to, and began with the apostles, who started this practice of meeting on Sunday. The “official” teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is that the abolition of the ceremonial seventh day Sabbath was confirmed by the apostles. The very highest authority, in the Catholic Church – the Council of Trent, “The Catechism of the Council of Trent,” published by order of Pius IV, contains the creed of the Church. It devotes eight pages to the Sabbath question. It says:
“The Sabbath was kept holy from the time of the liberation of the people of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh; the obligation was to cease with the abrogation of the Jewish worship, of which it formed a part; and it therefore was no longer obligatory after the death of Christ. “The apostles therefore resolved to consecrate the first day of the week to the divine worship, and called it ‘the Lord’s Day’; St. John, in the Apocalypse, makes mention of ‘the Lord’s Day’; and the apostle commands collection to be made ‘on the first day of the week,’ that is, according to the interpretation of St. Chrysostom, on the Lord’s Day;” (pages 264, 265).
SDA top scholar Samuel Bacchiocchi showed that Ellen White and the SDA denomination’s claim that Pope changed the Sabbath were false: “I differ from Ellen White, for example, on the origin of Sunday. She teaches that in the first centuries all Christians observed the Sabbath and it was largely through the efforts of Constantine that Sunday keeping was adopted by many Christians in the fourth century. My research shows otherwise. (“Free Catholic Mailing List” on 8 Feb 1997).
Ellen White claims that the change of the Sabbath to Sunday was accomplished by the Pope with the “power of the state”:
“It was on behalf of Sunday that popery first asserted its arrogant claims; and its first resort to the power of the state was to compel the observance of Sunday as ‘the Lord’s Day.‘” (Great Controversy, page 447)
She makes another similar statement later in the book: “Royal edicts, general councils, and church ordinances sustained by secular power were the steps by which the pagan festival [day of the Sun] attained its position of honor in the Christian world.” (page 574)
Before we read Bacchoicchi’s assessment of these quotes, the reader should be aware that Bacchiocchi is still widely regarded as the SDA theologian who was the most knowledgeable person in the entire sect on church history pertaining to Sabbath-Sunday issues. There was simply no one in the church more qualified to assess Ellen White’s statements than Bacchiocchi. Here is his assessment:
“Both statements just cited are inaccurate, because the secular power of the state did not influence or compel Christians to adopt Sunday during the second and third centuries. At that time the Roman emperors were rather hostile toward Christianity. They were more interested to suppress Christianity than to support church leaders in their promotion of Sunday worship. The bishop of Rome could not have resorted to ‘the power of the state to compel the observance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day.’ Eventually, beginning with the fourth century, some Roman emperors actively supported the agenda of the church, but this was long after the establishment of Sunday observance.
“The problem is with the second part of the statement which speaks of the Sabbath as being ‘pressed down a little lower’ in almost every general council. In all my reading of the seven ecumenical councils, I have not found a reference to the Sabbath/Sunday question being debated in such councils. Presumably the reason is that Sunday observance was no longer a debated question–it had become widely accepted by Christians.”
Another SDA scholar, C. Mervyn Maxwell, Ph.D., professor of church history at Andrews University Theological Seminary, Berrien Springs, Michigan writes: “There is little evidence that the sun occupied the unique position attributed to it by some modern authors. When the Emperor Caracalla tried to impose sun worship in the early years of the third century, the Romans laughed at him. Although sun worship has always played a role in pagan religions, it wasn’t until the end of that century (3rd century) that the sun enjoyed real prominence among the Roman gods—and by that time many Christians, at least, had been observing Sunday for 150 years. In his Apology addressed to the Roman Government, the great Christian writer Tertullian specifically refuted the charge that Christians worshiped on Sunday in honor of the sun” (Source: Ministry Magazine, 1977).
Does Daniel 7 Describe an Investigative Judgment of the Righteous as SDA’s teach? Notice the order of events presented in Daniel 7:
- Little horn came up (v. 8)
- Little horn spoke great things (v. 8)
- The judgment was set (v. 10)
- The beast was slain and burned (v. 11)
There is nothing in this sequence of events about investigating the deeds of the righteous. The context is that the little horn spoke blasphemous words, and then judgment occurred, and his dominion was taken away. The very next event after the judgment was the destruction of the beast. The only conclusion that can be arrived at from reading this passage in context is that the ones being judged are the little horn and the beast power. Now notice the sequence in the latter, interpretive section of the chapter:
- Little horn arises (v. 24)
- Little horn speaks against Most High (v. 25)
- Little horn persecutes saints for 1260 days (v. 25)
- The judgment shall sit (v. 26)
- The little horn’s dominion is taken away (v. 26)
The little horn’s kingdom is given to the saints (v. 27)
See our verse-by-verse Daniel Commentary here.
See our verse-by-verse Revelation Commentary here.