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  • Wayne Howard

Pagan Rome

This new beast is different...that's the best that can be said for it. In Daniel chapter 7, we go from seeing animals that we recognize, even if a bit fanciful: a lion with eagle's wings, a bear, a leopard with four heads and four wings, to a beast that can't even be given a label of something recognizable. It had iron teeth, and was terrible and strong, and had 10 horns. This brings to mind something very violent, and make no bones about it, Rome was a violent nation, with gladiator battles to the death and mass public executions of prisoners held in front of large audiences for the entertainment value, and the countryside dotted with crosses where enemies of state have been hung up as an example for all to see. They didn't come by this violence naturally. It was the result of being defeated around 390 B.C. by a band of Celtic barbarians, led by a man named Brennus. From that point, they vowed never to be so weak. They took their example from those barbarians.

There was something else very different about Rome that we have not seen before. Rome did not have a central leader or king. It was a political machine, run by a Senate, which is the origin of our form of government today. To be a member of the Senate, you had to have served in the military, and been previously elected into a junior quaestor position. The Senate was a large body, around 600 members by around 50 BCE.

You'll notice that Daniel waits until the very end of his description of the beast to mention that it has ten horns, almost as an afterthought. This wasn't an accident. It is because the beast didn't have ten horns until the end of its reign, at the fall of Rome. In the 300s, the Roman Empire was being attacked by a number of Germanic barbarian tribes. The empire began to fall to these "new" barbarians. In 476 A.D., the Germanic leader Odoacer staged a revolt and overthrew the Roman emperor Romulus. By this time, the land had been divided between 10 barbarian tribes: Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Alemanni, Burgundians, Suevi, Lombards, Franks, Heruli, and Anglo-Saxons.

In Daniel chapter 8, we had seen the battle between a ram and a goat, and suddenly the attention shifted to the goat's horn(s). It started out with one prominent horn, which we've seen represented Alexander the Great, which then broke off, representing Alexander's death, and four new ones took its place, representing the four top generals who eventually took over divisions of Alexander's empire. It zooms in closer, and we see, out of those four horns, a little horn beginning to grow, which expands out to the south, the east, and toward the Glorious Land, and even to the heavens. It goes into details about the appearance of this little horn, but we're not ready to talk about that yet. We're going to talk about the early expansion of that little horn, which we are calling Pagan Rome, to differentiate it as Rome before it became known as a Christian nation. Rome began as a very small village along the Tiber River (ironically it began during the iron age, as the statue we saw in Nebuchadnezzar's dream had iron legs representing Rome), in an area ruled by Antiochus III, son of King Seleucas II, a direct descendant of one of the four generals Alexander's Empire had been divided between. It began to expand quickly in the directions mentioned above: south into the area of Egypt, east into the area of Persia, and toward the land of Judea.

This is the period of time and the environment where Jesus entered the scene. We see this described symbolically in Revelation chapter 12. A sign appears in the heavens, a woman clothed in the sun, the moon at her feet, a garland of 12 stars on her head. It is describing the constellation Virgo (a pure woman, a virgin), which does have 12 stars at her head. The vision goes on to say she is with child, and crying out in labor, about to give birth. Then it tells of a fiery red dragon standing ready to devour the child as soon as it is born, that she gives birth to a male child who is destined to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and that then the woman flees into the wilderness. We know from Jesus' birth story in Matthew chapter 2, that King Herod has heard that the future king of the Jews has been born and feels threatened by this and asks that all male children under the age of two be killed in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. We also see that Joseph was told in a dream to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, which he promptly did.

Symbols tend to hold many layers of meaning, not just one. This seems to be no exception. The Bible often uses a woman to represent a church, and it could very well represent the early church, preparing to transition from the Old Testament (the moon at the feet) to the New Testament (clothed in the sun). The moon is a dim imitation, only a reflection, of the true light of the sun (Son). When we look at the woman this way, we see the birth of Jesus as the focus of that transition. At this point, the church is as pure as it is possible to be. It has the teachings of Jesus straight from His mouth. That fiery red dragon is no longer Herod, but Satan himself, working behind the scenes, trying to destroy what he knows will eventually be his downfall. The early Christians were persecuted heavily, often fed to the lions as entertainment for the Romans (again, all that violence!) and many of them fled into the wilderness to escape death, where they were pursued relentlessly by the Romans. Things did eventually turn around for the Christians, and we will get into that next...

Please look below the graphic for references to scriptures.

Revelation 13:1

1 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.

Daniel 7:7

7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.

Daniel 8:9

9 And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.

Daniel 2:32-33

32 This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.

Revelation 12:1-6

1 Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. 2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. 5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. 6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

Matthew 2:1-23

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.' " 7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also." 9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him." 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son." 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more." 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child's life are dead." 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

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