Our Past and Future Hope – Chapter Five: The Coming of the Son of Man

Daniel 7

This is chapter five of Our Past and Future Hope: Reintroducing a Traditional Faith-Building Eschatology by Jason Giles. The Contents page is here.

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In the last chapter we jumped from the Old Testament to the New Testament. We went from the Seventy ‘Sevens’ prophecy in Daniel 9 to look at the related passage in Matthew 24, Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, as well as the future coming of the Son of Man. Now we go back to the Old Testament in Daniel 7, which is where the reference to a messianic ‘son of man’ comes from. This vision is about the Son of Man- Jesus Christ, the Messiah- coming in glory and receiving his kingdom to rule with the saints.

Again, Daniel 7 is the only place in the Old Testament where the title ‘son of man’ is clearly linked to the Messiah. When Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, this is the passage that the Jews who heard him would recall. The events described by this vision are why the Jews expected the Messiah to be a conquering king who saved them from the Roman Empire and set up his earthly kingdom.

The first chapter of this book goes over Daniel 2, where the ‘little stone’ strikes down the great statue and grows to fill the whole earth. We looked at how Christ inaugurated the kingdom of God, and how it has been growing larger and larger to this day. The kingdom of God did come with the Son of Man, but not in a way that the Jews in his day expected. So Daniel 7 looks forward to a still future event, when the Son of Man comes to consummate his Kingdom, and when “‘the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him’” (Daniel 7:27).

In Daniel 2, we were also introduced to the four world empires that would arise, one after another, until the little stone broke in to replace them. These world empires are shown to us again here in Daniel 7, this time under the symbol of ‘beasts.’ Christians largely agree on the identity of these beasts, and it isn’t until the details of the fourth beast that interpretations start to diverge.

The Four Beasts

1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. (Daniel 7:1-3)

Daniel received this vision during the reign of Belshazzar, the last of the kings of the Babylonian Empire. It is a dream filled with symbols, but thankfully it is interpreted for us in the latter part of the chapter. The use of symbols in the visions of Daniel teaches and prepares us for how to interpret the likewise heavy use of symbols in Revelation. In fact, the very symbols in this chapter of Daniel are used again in Revelation.

God doesn’t leave us in the dark when it comes to using symbols in visions and prophecy. They are often interpreted for us in the immediate context, or there are other places in the Bible that give us clues- Scripture interprets Scripture. In this case, we’re told later in the chapter that the ‘beasts’ are kingdoms (verses 17, 23). Of course, these kingdoms do not literally ‘come up out the sea,’ so what does the great sea stand for? “Among the sacred poets and the prophets, hosts of armies invading a land are compared to overflowing waters, and mighty changes among the nations to the heaving billows of the ocean in a storm. Compare Jeremiah 46:7-8; Jeremiah 47:2; Isaiah 8:7-8; Isaiah 17:12; Isaiah 59:19; Daniel 11:40; Revelation 13:1.”1 The example of Isaiah 17:12 reads, “Woe to the many nations that rage— they rage like the raging sea! Woe to the peoples who roar— they roar like the roaring of great waters!” These kingdoms are formed amidst great turmoil among the nations.

4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it. (Daniel 7:4)

The lion is ‘the king of beasts,’ a symbol of strength, courage, and sovereignty in the Scriptures.2 Eagles represent swiftness and far-reaching flight.3 Therefore, these symbols point to a strong and sovereign kingdom that would arise out of the turmoil of the nations, conquering widely and swiftly. But its wings are torn off- its conquests are eventually cut short- and it stands on two feet like a man, with the mind of man given to it. To sum up the symbols, “this mighty empire, carrying its arms with the rapidity of an eagle, and the fierceness of a lion, through the world, would be checked in its career; its ferocity would be tamed, and it would be characterized by comparative moderation and humanity.”4

Christian interpreters throughout history have agreed that this kingdom is the same ‘head on gold’ of the statue of Daniel 2: the Babylonian Empire. “All, or nearly all, agree that it refers to the kingdom of Babylon, of which Nebuchadnezzar was the head, and to the gradual diminution of the ferocity of conquest under a succession of comparatively weak princes.”5

5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’ (Daniel 7:5)

The bear is less noble than the lion, but known for its ferocity, especially when ‘robbed of her cubs’ as it is written in Scripture (Hosea 13:8). It was raised up on one of its sides, possibly a pose of getting ready to attack. It had three ribs in its mouth, suggesting “a kingdom or people of a fierce and rough character having already subdued some, and then, after reposing, rising up with the trophies of its former conquests to go forth to new victories, or to overcome others.”6 It was also told to “‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’, symbolizing a command from God to go on to further conquests.

If the first kingdom is Babylon, then this would naturally apply to the Medo-Persian Empire, the chest and arms of silver from the statue in Daniel 2. Just as silver is inferior to gold, Medo-Persia was inferior to Babylon (Daniel 2:39), and the bear is less noble than the lion. The bear was raised up on one side- the Persians were raised up over the Medes- or they were poised to strike other kingdoms after their initial conquests. Three ribs were in its mouth- just as Cyrus had conquered Persia, Media, and Lydia- readying himself for about a year before attacking Babylon. God gave the command that Cyrus would go forth and conquer Babylon, mentioning him by name in Isaiah 45:1, centuries before he was born.

6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule. (Daniel 7:6)

Scripture characterizes leopards as fast, fierce, and next in dignity to a lion.7 Having four wings, this kingdom moves even more quickly in its conquests than the lion. It also has four heads, symbolizing one kingdom composed of four separate powers. The Macedonian (or Grecian) Empire comes after the Medo-Persian Empire, and these symbols fit it perfectly. As we saw in Daniel 8, Alexander the Great made his conquests in an extremely short period of time. In Daniel 8, the large horn was broken “at the height of its power,” and “in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven” (Daniel 8:8). The four heads of the leopard are these same four kingdoms that ruled in Alexander’s place (Daniel 8:22).

7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7:7)

At last, we come to the terrifying fourth beast. It is no problem to identify it, and with near unanimity, it is recognized as the Roman Empire, which came after the Grecian one. “The fourth beast – so mighty, so terrific, so powerful, so unlike all the others, armed with iron teeth, and with claws of brass, trampling down and stamping on all the earth – well represents the Roman dominion.”8

This is where the unity of interpretations ends. The modern futurist interpretation pushes the rest of the vision into the future, and the preterist view keeps it in the past. But the traditional historicist view looks at how similar symbols have been interpreted in other passages of Scripture, and sees how they align with a historical fulfillment in the Church age, to the present day and beyond.

Ten Horns 

The Roman Empire is long gone of course- Ancient Rome, or the Western Roman Empire, dissolved over 1500 years ago. How do we interpret the ten horns of the fourth beast? Daniel wanted to know the same, and the rest of the vision focuses on the fate of the fourth beast, until all kingdoms are handed over to the Son of Man and the holy people of the Most High (Daniel 7:27):

8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

9 “As I looked,

“thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened.

11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:8-14)

The dream is interpreted for Daniel in the next part of the chapter. Concerning the fourth beast and the ten horns: “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom” (Daniel 7:23-24a). One thing to note in this chapter is that ‘kings’ and ‘kingdoms’ are used interchangeably. For instance, “The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth” (Daniel 7:17, emphasis mine), yet these same are referred to as ‘kingdoms’ in verse 23 above. So, the ten horns could be ten kings, or ten kingdoms.

There is another place in Daniel that gives us more insight into symbols of animals and horns. In chapter 2 of this book, we looked at the vision of the ram and the goat of Daniel 8. In it, we are told by the angel Gabriel that the ram symbolizes the Medo-Persian Empire, and the one-horned goat is Greece. It is agreed that the one horn of the goat symbolizes Alexander the Great, and after it is broken, “the four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power” (Daniel 8:22). The symbols in Daniel 7 are very similar, and it would be natural to look for ten kingdoms to emerge from the Roman Empire, not having the same power.

It turns out that when the Roman Empire fell, ten kingdoms were formed from its ruins. Historians make different lists, but they typically contain ten kingdoms, and are similar to this one by Isaac Newton:

  1. The kingdom of the Vandals and Alans in Spain and Africa;
  2. the kingdom of the Suevians in Spain;
  3. the kingdom of the Visigoths;
  4. the kingdom of the Alans in Gallia;
  5. the kingdom of the Burgundians;
  6. the kingdom of the Franks;
  7. the kingdom of the Britons;
  8. the kingdom of the Huns;
  9. the kingdom of the Lombards;
  10. the kingdom of Ravenna.9

These historical events are uncanny, and a testament to the divine origin of this prophecy. “One thing is certain, that there never has been a case in which an empire of vast power has been broken up into small sovereignties, to which this description would so well apply as to the rise of the numerous dynasties in the breaking up of the vast Roman power.”10 So far, the biblical use of these symbols and their historical fulfillment are in alignment. The fourth beast is identified as the Roman Empire, and in 476 A.D., that empire fell and was carved up into ten kingdoms.

The Little Horn

So who or what is the ‘little horn’ that came up among the ten kingdoms, three being uprooted before it, with eyes like a human being, and a mouth that speaks boastfully?

20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.

26 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. (Daniel 7:20-26)

What follows is a summary from Barnes of what we know about the little horn from this chapter, and what it would fairly symbolize:

  • The little horn came up among the other horns, and stood among them – It would share the divided power of the Roman Empire with the other kingdoms.
  • The little horn came after the other horns were already there – It would rise up after the other ten kingdoms were established.
  • It started small, but grew in power and displaced three other horns – This king or kingdom would start small, but grow large enough to take control over three of the ten kingdoms that were formed after the fall of the Roman Empire.
  • It had a mouth that spoke boastfully, speaking words “against the Most High” (Daniel 7:25) – This king or kingdom would be proud and arrogant, blaspheming God. If this is the same power as ‘the man of lawlessness’ in 2 Thessalonians, “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
  • It would persecute God’s people – This king or kingdom would oppress and wage war against ‘the holy people of the Most High’ (Daniel 7:21, 25). It would succeed in this for “a time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25), which is three and a half years.
  • It would claim legislative power – This king or kingdom would “try to change the set times and laws” (Daniel 7:25), especially regarding God’s people.11

The modern popular interpretation insists that these things are still in the future- the ten horns are ten nations that will be united, and the little horn is a ruler who will take over three of them, tricking Israel into following him. After Christians are secretly raptured, or taken into heaven, the little horn will stand in a newly built Temple and proclaim himself to be God, terrorizing them for three and a half years.

One major problem with this interpretation is the fact that the fourth beast- the Roman Empire- has been long gone, for over 1,500 years now. Once again, an inexplicable, unmentioned ‘pause’ is introduced to the vision. This is the same type of problem that plagues the interpretation of each prophecy that is forced into the mold of a future fulfillment: the toes of the statue in Daniel 2 are longer than the height of the rest of the statue; instead of being a precise 490-year prophecy, the seventy ‘sevens’ of Daniel 9 are now 2,480 years and counting; the destruction of the Temple prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24 is now a future Temple instead of the one that was actually destroyed within the generation he spoke to. All of these, despite the glaring accuracy of a verifiable historical fulfillment for each one, that when recognized, leaves us in awe of a God who knows the future and tells us about it beforehand in order to build our faith.

A Historical Fulfillment

If we were to ask a historian of any faith (or lack thereof), “After the fall of the Roman Empire, was there ever a king, kingdom, or authority figure who started small, but grew in power to the point where they had control of other kingdoms that came from ruins of that Empire?” what would their answer be? We could ask further: “did this king ever boast in his power and authority, equating himself with God? Did he have the authority to change laws, especially for believers? Did they ever declare war against believers who would not obey his commands?” Their answer would be crystal clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt: the Bishop of Rome, the office of the Papacy, the power behind the Holy Roman Empire, the Pope- this is the only authority that fulfills all of the signs of the little horn.

But not many of us are historians. We look at the Pope today and think, “What harm has that old sweet man ever done? In fact, he says many wonderful things and is an inspiration to millions!” It’s true, and while the Pope is still a major influence on many, the power of the office of the Papacy today is a shadow of what it once was. We have a hard time grasping the massive authority they held until just a few centuries ago. Perhaps we get little hints of its previous might once in awhile; small glimpses of the power that gripped Europe. For instance, I used to play a computer game called Medieval II: Total War, where the player is a ruler of a historical kingdom warring with other kingdoms. In it, the Pope was a faction to be reckoned with, the ruler of the Papal States who could excommunicate you and call crusades against your kingdom if you didn’t stay on his good side! Every kingdom in the game had to be careful not to cross the Papacy. Things like this give us an idea of what kind of power the Popes held in the past.

A cursory glance at the history of post-Roman Empire Europe shows a remarkable fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel 7. We have already mentioned how the Roman Empire’s fall left ten kingdoms in its place. In the power vacuum that occurred in Rome, the Papacy served as a source of authority and continuity. The Popes were recognized by the Byzantine Emperors as the head of the church in 533 A.D., and given the title of ‘Universal Bishop’ in 606 A.D. Not too long after consolidating this spiritual authority, the Papacy secured much greater political power in the form of kingdoms:

The Papal states were accumulated in pieces between the years 755 and 800. The Exarchate of Ravenna was conferred on the Papacy under Pope Stephen II by Pepin, father of Charlemagne, in the year 755. The kingdom of the Lombards was conquered by Charlemagne, son of Pepin; he conferred that kingdom on the Papacy, laying the documents on the altar of St. Peter in Rome in the year 774, and the Roman senate itself was taken over by the Papacy by degrees. Shortly after 800 the three principalities were included in the Papal states which were held by the Papacy until 1870,- over 1000 years. These states were accumulated with no small amount of intrigue, war, bloodshed and other adjuncts of political turnovers.12

Malachi Martin, a high-ranking Jesuit scholar in the Roman Catholic Church, confirms this consolidation of power by 800:

By the end of the eighth century the pope was, in fact and practice, a temporal ruler of gigantic proportions. The Papal States had been established. As time went on, in addition to the Papal States which were ruled directly by the popes as their own possessions, the Roman pope gained feudal power over other states: they were obligated to pay yearly tribute and to contribute to the defensive and offensive policies of the popes. The Roman pontiffs also acquired political control in still other lands: the rulers were appointed with papal approval, and they were bound by offensive-defensive alliances with the papacy.13

Here is the little horn: not just a single man, but a line of ‘kings’ that quickly grew mighty in the midst of the ten horns of the beast. Three of these horns were felled before the little horn, and their power was given to him.

The Papacy did not stop there. The ultimate form of their political power was in the resuscitation of the Roman Empire, now called the ‘Holy Roman Empire.’ The fourth beast was given new life! It began just as soon as the three horns were uprooted before the little horn in 800 A.D., when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne ‘emperor of the Romans.’ This is a perfect fulfillment of the events described in Revelation 13, when “The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed” (Revelation 13:15). The Holy Roman Empire was an image of the Roman Empire that had fallen, becoming the most powerful monarchy in Europe.

Just as the little horn was boastful and blasphemous, the Papacy reveled in the titles it gave itself:

“Our Lord God the Pope; another God upon earth; king of kings and lord of lords. The same is the dominion of God and the Pope. To believe that our Lord God the Pope might not decree as he decreed is heresy. The power of the Pope is greater than all created power, and extends itself to things celestial, terrestrial, and infernal. The Pope doeth whatsoever he listeth, even things unlawful, and is more than God.”14

With these, “the Pope has claimed, or allowed to be conferred on him, names and prerogatives which can belong only to God.”15 Martin also quotes the Papacy in their belief that all powers in heaven and earth are theirs:

On November 18, 1302, Boniface VIII could issue a famous statement of papal claims which stands as the ultimate expression of the Christian heartland and profound Roman claims on it. “The Church,” declared Boniface, “has one body and one head, Christ and Christ’s Vicar, Peter and Peter’s successor… In his power there are two swords, a spiritual and a temporal sword… Both kinds of power are in the hands of the Roman Pontiff… And furthermore we declare and define it to be believed as a necessary condition for salvation that everything created in the human universe is subject to the Roman Pontiff.”16

The Papacy used its power to wage war against God’s people, and their victims are in the millions:17

In the year 1208, a crusade was proclaimed by Pope Innocent III against the Waldenses and Albigenses, in which a million of men perished. From the beginning of the order of the Jesuits, in the year 1540 to 1580, nine hundred thousand were destroyed. One hundred and fifty thousand perished by the Inquisition in thirty years. In the Low Countries fifty thousand persons were hanged, beheaded, burned, or buried alive, for the crime of heresy, within the space of thirty-eight years from the edict of Charles V, against the Protestants, to the peace of Chateau Cambresis in 1559. Eighteen thousand suffered by the hands of the executioner, in the space of five years and a half, during the administration of the Duke of Alva. Indeed, the slightest acquaintance with the history of the Papacy, will convince anyone that what is here said of “making war with the saints” Daniel 7:21, and “wearing out the saints of the Most High” Daniel 7:25, is strictly applicable to that power, and will accurately describe its history.18

Finally, the Papacy claimed total legislative power, both civil and spiritual. In the civil realm, they claimed “the right of deposing and setting up kings; of fixing the boundaries of nations; of giving away crowns and scepters; and of exercising dominion over the sacred seasons, the customs, the amusements of nations.”19 As for spiritual authority, “the Pope has claimed to be the head of the church, and has asserted and exercised the right of appointing sacred seasons; of abolishing ancient institutions; of introducing numberless new festival occasions, practically abrogating the laws of God on a great variety of subjects.”20 As an example of this, we can list the claim of infallibility, image worship, the celibacy of the clergy, the doctrines of purgatory and transubstantiation, mandatory holidays for feasting and fasting- “in general to the absolute control claimed by the Papacy over the whole subject of religion.”21

The sheer amount of historical evidence points clearly to the Papacy as the fulfillment of the little horn of Daniel 7. One thing remains- doesn’t the little horn only have power for time, times, and half a time- namely, three and a half years?

The Day-Year Principle

In chapter three of this book, we looked at Daniel 9 and the Seventy ‘Sevens’ prophecy. In a regular narrative passage, those ‘sevens’ would have been interpreted as weeks, so the whole period of seventy weeks would be 490 days. Yet the unanimous conclusion among interpreters from all times and backgrounds (futurists, preterists, historicists, Catholics and Protestants) has been that those 490 days are actually a symbol for 490 years. This is the natural conclusion due to the sheer number of events that were prophesied in that chapter, and also because of how wonderfully they coincide with the actual coming of the Messiah. It turns out that in prophecies full of symbols, even the time given might be a symbol.

This is seen a couple of other times in the Old Testament. The first is in Numbers 14:34, where the Israelites were sentenced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, “one year for each of the forty days you explored the land.” Also Ezekiel 4:4-5, where the prophet is told to lie on his left side and put the sin of Israel on himself “the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the people of Israel.” So it is not unnatural in the Scriptures, particularly in symbolic prophecy, for a day to equal a year. Among historicists, this is often called the day-year principle, and for hundreds of years, it was the most common way to understand the prophecy in this chapter, as well as the parallel times given in Revelation.

The ‘time, times, and half a time,’ or three and a half years, are the same amount of days as forty-two months (Revelation 11:2, 13:5) and 1,260 days (Revelation 11:3, 12:6). If a day equals a year in this prophecy, then the Papacy as both a civil and spiritual authority is to have control for 1,260 years.

As mentioned earlier in this chapter, the Papacy consolidated spiritual authority in the years 533 and 606 (with some interesting events happening 1,260 years after those dates that we’ll look at in a later chapter). It did not gain civil authority until starting about 752, fully receiving power over three of the ten kingdoms in 800. Even though the Papacy has already faced some judgment, losing much (but not all) of its civil authority, it still has a few decades of the 1,260 years left if these dates are correct.

The Depths of Depravity

Perhaps it’s still hard to believe that the Papacy is the same persecuting ‘little horn’ of Daniel 7. Again, we look at Rome today and see a pope who seems to be humbly refusing the trappings of power and luxury that those before him were lavished with. He’s not calling for war or lording his power over kingdoms and nations. Yet when we look at the past, even Catholic scholars admit the dark history of the Papacy. Describing two of the worst periods of Papal depravity called the first and second ‘pornacracy’, one such Catholic author writes:

The First Pornocracy (882-964) – Since porneia means fornication and idolatry, then a pornocracy refers to government by corruption in the worst way. It means sexual corruption, financial corruption, and most importantly spiritual corruption afflicting the Papacy and the Vatican. There has always been corruption in the Church since Judas and before in Israel. Yet new lows were reached in the tenth century papacy. The sexual and financial corruption of the Papacy by powerful families vying for power were exactly like the modern day Vatican Mafia… Murder, adultery, idolatry, greed and darkness reigned in the Papacy in the tenth century…

The Second Pornocracy (1471-1563) – This period was worse than the first. This was the Renaissance Papacy. There was not only sexual and financial corruption, but these popes had armies and sought to fight other Christian nation states on the Italian peninsula. Julius II, for instance, was nicknamed “the warrior pope” who named himself after Julius Caesar… The worst pope of this period may have been Alexander VI (1492-1503). He fathered nine children, seven while a cardinal with two different women, and when he was pope, in his sixties, he convinced nineteen-year-old Giulia Farnese to become his concubine. He had Annius of Viterbo produce an elaborate forgery for him “as part of a Vatican campaign to legitimize and bolster papal claims to parts of Italy” allowing the pope’s armies to invade. These forgeries also included the racist ideology of the “curse of Ham” which would be used for centuries to justify the expansion of the old Muhammadan trans-Saharan slave trade into the “Christian” trans-Atlantic slave trade.22

Entire books have been written about the obscene deeds of popes like these and others, and I will not delve into them here- they are confirmed in hundreds of other accounts. Many of us just aren’t aware of how corrupt and depraved many of the Popes throughout history were.

But even if some were not morally bankrupt according to their personal deeds, the Papacy has never repented of their blasphemous titles- claiming to be God on earth- nor have they ever willingly forsaken temporal power. Catholic scholar Martin writes:

History also reveals that various popes had opportunities to rid the church of its temporal power and wealth, to stand naked of all human and secular protection, to rely only on the promise made by Jesus that his church would never fail, and to employ the only power Jesus authorized them—the power of the spirit. Usually, such opportunities arose as a disastrous result of pontiffs playing power politics just like secular leaders. On each such occasion, however, we find that the Roman leaders refused the invitation, retreating in horror and confusion from the edge of the precipice. The worst of them fought—and to a large extent succeeded—in reacquiring whatever power they had lost. The best of them—a Pius IX or a Pius XII, for instance— never wholly surrendered the use of power. And the general practice of popes over the centuries has been to try to regain whatever lost power they could.23

Even the best popes held onto the power of the ‘little horn’, the illicit union of the claim to supreme spiritual and civil authority.

This is in addition to the total spiritual authority they still claim as the head of the Church in all matters of faith, doctrine, and interpretation of the Bible. They’ve added statements of belief to the Apostle’s Creed including: the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church; total agreement with their interpretation of Scripture; belief in purgatory, transubstantiation, indulgences, and that “the saints reigning with Christ are to be worshipped and prayed unto;”24 among other things, the Pope is to be given obedience in all things. During their counter-Reformation, they completely rejected the five solas– Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, to the glory of God alone- and declared anyone who believes them to be anathema, or excommunicated.

The Papacy remains unchanged in all that is fundamental. Author Tim Challies sums it up:

The Roman Catholic Church remains committed to a false gospel, a gospel of salvation by grace plus works. The core doctrinal issues that divided Protestantism from Catholicism remain. The core doctrinal issues that compelled Rome to issue her anathemas against Protestantism are unchanged. Rome remains fully committed to a gospel that cannot and will not save a single soul. Those within the Roman Catholic Church who have experienced salvation (and certainly there are those who have!) have done so despite the church’s official teaching, not through it.25

When the Man Comes Around

Daniel 7 ends with the judgment of the little horn and the consummation of the kingdom when the Son of Man comes:

26 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.” (Daniel 7:26-28)

There are not many details given here about the second coming of Christ, other than that when he comes, the little horn will be destroyed entirely, and God’s people shall rule with him. This prophecy is expanded upon in Revelation, where the same symbols for the fourth beast are given, except the little horn is portrayed as ‘the beast out of the earth’ in Revelation 13, and the prostitute in Revelation 17. We will look at these prophecies in more detail later on in this book. The Millennium is also mentioned in Revelation 20, which I believe this period of the saints ruling with Christ is related to. We will also look at this in greater detail in the last chapter of this book.

According to the traditional interpretation of Daniel 7, the Papacy as the little horn will likely meet its end soon. The best historicist commentators in centuries past were careful in their speculation, noting that they would probably not live to see it happen. They guessed that the Papacy became the little horn when it added civil power to its spiritual authority. Because this was anywhere from 752 to 800, its end could be anytime now, to 2060 and beyond. Time will tell if they were correct, but I will not add to their speculation here. They were not obsessed with such times and dates as many of us are tempted to be, and we should follow their example. To clarify- no one who follows Scripture carefully will dare speculate on the timing of the return of Christ, and that is not what these men have done. I will say more about our current time in a later chapter of this book on Revelation 16.

What we can assume based on the fair interpretation of the symbols in this chapter is that the little horn will face absolute destruction- “the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire” (Daniel 7:11b), “his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever” (Daniel 7:26). Barnes writes, “If applied to the power represented by the ‘little horn’ – the Papacy – it means that that power which sprang up amidst the others, and which became so mighty – embodying so much of the power of the beast, would wholly pass away as an ecclesiastico-civil power. It would cease its dominion, and as one of the ruling powers of the earth would disappear.”26 It will be destroyed because of its pride and arrogance, and the source will be apparent as coming from God- “the court will sit” (Daniel 7:26a), as though it were a formal court decision of divine judgment.

Finally, the Son of Man comes:

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed…

27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’ (Daniel 7:13-14, 27)

Initially, it is not mentioned in verse 14 that the saints will rule as the Son of Man consummates his kingdom (having already established it with his first coming), but in the interpretation of verse 27 it is expressly stated. This is likely related to the Millennium of Revelation 20. There are three main views of the Millennium that we will look at later. I will not be advocating for any particular view, and each one is compatible with the traditional interpretation given in this book.

In any case, this is the time of triumph and glory we share with the Son of Man, when he claims all power and authority. We desperately look forward to this time of peace, when all nations will obey the law of Christ, when people who fear God will rule. This prophecy promises just such a future, and we can look forward to it with faith and hope- knowing that God has shown us what to expect, and that he has followed through on all of his promises thus far.

Traditional Vs. Modern Interpretation

What the traditional interpretation of apocalyptic prophecies in Daniel makes clear is that God gave Daniel and his people a summary of what he intended to accomplish in the centuries to come. He showed them the world empires they should expect to rise and fall, and the beginning of the Messiah’s kingdom. He warned them that a kingdom would arise from the Greeks, with a king who would persecute them fiercely- even revealing the exact amount of days that the Temple would be defiled! He comforted them by assuring Daniel that Jerusalem and the Temple would be rebuilt, and gave a precise timeline of when they should expect the Messiah to come. The prophecies in Daniel give us insight into the truth that God never leaves his people without direction. Even when the prophets are seemingly silent, Scripture cries out loud and clear.

In this chapter of Daniel, he showed them what to expect not just in their own day, but in our times as well. With the fourth beast in this chapter having clear parallels to the beasts in Revelation, now we have context from the Old Testament on how to interpret apocalyptic prophecy in the New Testament. And the same principle applies- God never leaves his people without direction. In these nearly 2,000 years with no new scriptures being written, with no prophets able to say ‘thus saith the LORD,’ the prophecies of the New Testament speak loud and clear. God has given us an idea of what he intends to accomplish in these centuries before the second coming of the Son of Man, a divine history of events. As they are fulfilled over time, we can look back with hindsight and recognize God’s faithfulness to his promises, knowing with certainty that he will accomplish everything he has decreed shall yet happen.

As we have also seen, nearly all of this wonder is lost with the modern futurist interpretation. Prophecy after prophecy is unnaturally shoved into the future, thrown into a heaping pile with a large sign reading ‘UNFULFILLED’. The principle followed is that God only meant to reveal the last seven years out of thousands. We have no reference point to understand what he is doing in the world- only a pat on the head with the promise that all shall be well in the end, and the command to just wait and see. This is not how God’s people in Daniel’s day understood them, nor did the early church understand it this way, as we shall see in the next chapter.

  1. Albert Barnes, “Notes, Critical, Illustrative, and Practical”, Daniel 7:2.
    Available online at https://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/barnes/dan007.htm ↩︎
  2. Barnes lists numerous examples: Gen 49:9; Eze 19:2-3; Sa2 23:20; Psa 7:2; Psa 22:21; Psa 57:4; Psa 58:6; Psa 74:4; Sa1 17:37; Job 4:10; Jer 4:7; Jer 49:19; Joe 1:6; Isa 29:1-2. ↩︎
  3. Compare Isa 46:11; Jer 4:13; Jer 48:40; Jer 49:22; Lam 4:19; Hab 1:8. ↩︎
  4. Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:4. ↩︎
  5. Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:4. ↩︎
  6. Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:5. ↩︎
  7. Compare Jer 5:6; Hos 13:7; Isa 11:6,; Jer 5:6; Hab 1:8; Hos 13:7. ↩︎
  8. Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:28. ↩︎
  9. Isaac Newton, “Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John”, Chapter 6.
    Available online at https://www.newtonproject.ox.ac.uk/view/texts/normalized/THEM00200 ↩︎
  10. Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:28. ↩︎
  11. See Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:28. ↩︎
  12. Fred Miller, “Revelation: A Panorama of the Gospel Age”, 36.
    Available online at http://moellerhaus.com/rev666.htm ↩︎
  13. Malachi Martin, “The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Church”, 94.
    Available online at https://archive.org/details/TheDeclineAndFallOfTheRomMalachiMartin/page/n93/mode/2up ↩︎
  14. Quoted in Thomas Newton, “Dissertations on the Prophecies”, 394. His footnote reads: “Dominus Deus noster papa. Alter Deus in terra. Rex regum, dominus dominorum. Idem est dominium Dei et papæ. Credere Dominum Deum nostrum papam non potuisse statuere, prout statuit, hæreticum censeretur. Papæ potestas est major omni potestate creata, extenditque se ad cœlestia, terrestria, et infernalia. Papa facit quicquid libet, etiam illicita, et est plus quam Deus. [Translated in the text.] See these and the like instances quoted in Bishop Jewel’s Apology and Defence, in Downham’s Treatise de Antichristo, and Poole’s English Annotations. See likewise Barrow’s Treatise of the Pope’s Supremacy in the Introduction.”
    Available online at https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=mMe88JMxx9cC
    Some bloggers will try to deny that Popes accepted these titles, but the evidence is overwhelming. See documents on Michael Scheifler’s Bible Light site: https://www.biblelightinfo.com/Extravagantes.htm ↩︎
  15. Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:28. ↩︎
  16. Martin, ibid, 94. ↩︎
  17. This number may seem sensational, and it would be if the scope was limited to specific events and regions (like the Spanish Inquisition). Historical theologian Nathan Busenitz remarks, “If the term is used in a broad sense—to represent all Roman Catholic activity against non-Catholics—then the numbers rise dramatically. If the historian includes forms of torture and killing that did not involve a formal trial, along with religious wars and other forms of Catholic violence enacted against Protestants and other non-Catholics (in areas outside of Spain and Portugal), then one can easily speak in terms of millions of people who were killed.”
    Available online at https://thecripplegate.com/how-many-people-died-in-the-inquisition/
    For a detailed view of these numbers, see David A. Plaisted’s “Estimates of the Number Killed by the Papacy in the Middle Ages and Later”.
    Available online at https://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/827989/15116787/1321289366180/50+million+protestants+killed.pdf ↩︎
  18. Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:28. ↩︎
  19. Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:28. ↩︎
  20. Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:28. ↩︎
  21. Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:28. ↩︎
  22. Timothy Flanders, “The Third Pornocracy: What We Are Living Through”.
    Available online at https://onepeterfive.com/third-pornocracy/ ↩︎
  23. Martin, ibid, 11. ↩︎
  24. Pope Pius IV qtd. in Robert Fleming, “The Rise and Fall of Papacy”, 49.
    Available online at https://books.google.com/books?id=4CUEAAAAQAAJ
    Twelve ‘articles of faith’ including this one were added to the Apostles Creed by Rome and are found at the end of the decrees of the Council of Trent. ↩︎
  25. Tim Challies, “The People’s Pope, The Man of the Year”.
    Available online at https://www.challies.com/articles/the-peoples-pope-the-man-of-the-year/ ↩︎
  26. Barnes, ibid, Daniel 7:28. ↩︎