Pagan Rome

Pagan Rome.1843…… Pagan Rome.1850

(Reference: Daniel 11 – Uriah Smith’s exposition)

Though Daniel 11 is not specifically presented on the 1843 or 1850 Charts, it is today considered the most expansive and detailed single prophetic picture of world history within the Bible. We now present the subject of pagan Rome in the prophetic/historical context given by the chapter. The following should be prayerfully read and considered with a Bible open to Daniel 11.

In this chapter, the major king or kingdom north of Palestine is called the king of the north, no matter who it is, and the major king or kingdom to the south of Palestine is referred to as the king of the south as far as the chapter predicts history before Jesus’ death on the cross. After the cross, the kings of Daniel 11 are no longer literally of the north or south but spiritually such.

In Daniel 11:5 we read of the powerful Ptolemy Soter, reigning king of the south, and also of the strength of “one of [Alexander’s] princes” – Seleucus Nicator, who ended up annexing all of Alexander’s kingdom (besides what belonged to Ptolemy) to his northern, Syrian kingdom.

By verses 7-9, a description is being given of what is today known as the Third Syrian War. Ptolemy III campaigned against Seleucus II with great success gaining control over territories previously held by the king of the north. Ptolemy returned to Egypt heavy with spoils.

Verses 10-11 give a preview of the Fourth Syrian War. The war’s main contestants were Antiochus the Great (king of the north) and Ptolemy Philopator (king of the south). Antiochus’ war-hardened “multitude shall be given into his hand” (i.e. Ptolemy’s hand) at the famous Battle of Raphia. After the Battle, Ptolemy made peace with Antiochus in order to pursuit a life of ease and luxurious revelry. He died shortly thereafter and was succeded by five-year-old Ptolemy V. The peace established between the northern and southern kingdoms lasted more than a decade – “certain years.”[1]

While Antiochus the Great strengthened his kingdom and military, Agathocles was prime minister and guardian of little king Ptolemy V, and he ruled the southern kingdom quite poorly. He was such a bad ruler that many Egyptian territories rebelled against him and “the Alexandrians, rising up against Agathocles, caused him, his sister, his mother, and their associates, to be put to death”[2] just as the Bible had predicted – “in those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south.”[3] Having entered into alliance with Philip of Macedonia, and having raised up a “great army and much riches,”[4] Antiochus began the Fifth Syrian War in 198 B.C. and came against coveted territories held by Egypt. In just two campaigns, Antiochus gained control of Coele-Syria and Palestine. The king of the north was prevented from entering into Egypt itself since the Romans, introduced in Daniel 11:14 as “the robbers of thy people,” had exalted themselves to the point where their demand of a few years prior – that Antiochus and Philip not attack Egypt (a main source of Italy’s grain) – was taken seriously. The demands of Rome on the Antiochus-Philip alliance at the end of the third century B.C. was one of the very earliest major interferences of the Romans on the affairs of the king Seleucid and Egyptian kingdoms.[5]

If you are reading through the Bible, you will come to prophecies of Rome [presented on the charts] before reading Daniel 11:14; however, verse 14 contains a very special reference to Rome – it contains the prophetic utterance concerning Rome to be fulfilled earliest in history. As this is the first-fulfilled or the “beginning” prophecy of Rome, this prophecy contains information that proves vital in understanding its “end.”[6] In verse 14 we learn that Rome exalts itself to “establish the vision.” (Established means twice-witnessed. There are two witnesses of Rome – Pagan and Papal).

The Egyptian general, Scopas, took back Coele-Syria and Palestine from Antiochus, but his victory was short-lived. Antiochus soon launched an attack to recover the territories, and he defeated Scopas at the Battle of Panium. Scopas fled with his remaining army to Sidon, one of the “most fenced cities”[7] (one of the strongest cites) of his day. He was there besieged by Antiochus. Egyptian attempts to rescue him and his men proved unsuccessful. Famine finally forced Scopas to surrender, and he returned to Egypt having had no “strength to withstand.”[8]

In Daniel 11:16 we read, “But he that cometh against him shall do according to his own will, and none shall stand before him; and he shall stand in the glorious land…” By context, it is seen that the aggressor in this passage, the “he,” is not the king of the north, but a different power. History shows that this power was Rome. It was the Roman general Pompey who deposed Antiochus XIII and laid undisputed claim to all of Syria (the northern kingdom) thereby making the Roman Republic the new king of the north. It was Pompey who shortly thereafter stood “in the glorious land” laying siege and finally overcoming Jerusalem in 63 B.C.

Much interesting history is summed up by the words, “He shall also set his face to enter with [or within] the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him; thus shall he do.”[9] Suffice it to say that “He” – Rome, led by Julius Caesar – came to possess what it still lacked of the whole kingdom once held by Alexander the Great. With the help of Antipater’s Jewish army (“upright ones with him”), Caesar gained complete victory over Egypt by 47 B.C.

Daniel 11:19 unmistakably points to the downfall of Julius Caesar. Uriah Smith writes, “After his conquest of Asia Minor, Caesar defeated the last remaining fragments of Pompey’s party, Cato and Scipio in Africa, and Labienus and Varus in Spain. Returning to Rome, the ‘fort of his own land,’ he was made dictator for life.”[10] Smith goes on to point out that shortly after returning to Rome, Caesar was assassinated just as the Bible had predicted – “but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found.”[11]

Octavius, whose name was changed to Caesar Augustus when he succeeded Julius, was certainly a “raiser of taxes” just as Daniel 11:20 predicted. Luke 2:1 shows this – “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” Jesus, the “man child” of Revelation 12, was born at this time. During the reign of Augustus, Rome reached the pinnacle of her greatness. Thus Jesus was born into “the glory of the kingdom”[12] – the zenith of pagan glory, the depths of idol darkness. Through Herod pagan Rome, the “great red dragon,” [13] sought to destroy the light of Truth as soon as it was brought forth [14].

Verse 21 describes Augustus’ successor as a “vile person.” History is most certainly in agreement. One biography of the Caesar even caries the title “Tiberius the Tyrant.”[15] Mrs. White referred to Caesar as a monster of humanity.[16]

As for the first clause of verse 22 – “And with the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken” –

Thomas Newton presents the following reading of the text as a more accurate translation of the original: “And the arms of the overflower shall be overflown from before him, and shall be broken.” This signifies revolution and violence; and in fulfillment we should look for the arms of Tiberius the overflower to be overflown, or, in other words, for him to suffer a violent death.[17]

Tiberius fell deathly ill in the year 37 A.D. Tacitus gives us a description of Tiberius’ death.

On the 15th of March, his breath failing, he was believed to have expired, and Caius Caesar was going forth with a numerous throng of congratulating followers to take the first possession of the empire, when suddenly news came that Tiberius was recovering his voice and sight… Macro, nothing daunted, ordered the old emperor to be smothered under a huge heap of clothes, and all to quit the entrance-hall. And so died Tiberius, in the seventy eighth year of his age.[18]

Proverbs 17:11 says, “An evil [man] seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.” How true this was in the case of Tiberius. Macro was sent against him. Divine justice could not allow such an evil man as Caesar to die in peace. How striking and seemingly inappropriate it is that the next words of Daniel 11:22 say, in effect, “such was the case with the Prince of the Covenant.”

It is certainly true that Jesus, the Covenant’s Prince, was “cut off”[19] (put to death) during the reign of Tiberius Caesar – in the middle (31 A.D.) of the 70th week of Daniel 9:27, but the last phrase of Daniel 11:22 actually likens Jesus’ death to the death of a “vile person.” How can this be? The simple answer is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For he [God] hath made him [Christ] [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Jesus’ soul became so much guiltier than Caesar’s when He willingly took upon himself the sins of the whole world that the world through Him might be saved!

Having reached the crucifixion of Christ, the great watershed in the Universe’s history, the narrative of Daniel 11 returns to the point in history where the “legs of iron,”[20] the “forth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly,”[21] the “little horn, which waxed exceeding great”[22] – that is, pagan Rome – first began to markedly enlarge itself. Verse 23 says, “And after the league [made] with him he shall work deceitfully; for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people.” Uriah Smith writes,

The “him” with whom the league is made, must be the same power which has been the subject of the prophecy from the 14th verse, the Roman Empire. That this is true has been shown in the fulfillment of the prophecy in the three individuals who successively ruled over the empire – Julius, Augustus, and Tiberius Caesar.

Now that the prophet has taken us through the secular events of the Roman Empire to the end of the seventy weeks of Daniel 9:24, he takes us back to the time when the Romans became directly connected with the people of God by the Jewish league in 161 B.C. [158 B.C. according to the two charts] From this point we are then taken through a direct line of events to the final triumph of the church and the setting up of God’s everlasting kingdom.[23]

Verse 24 pictures Rome entering “peaceably even upon the fattest places of the province.” This was indeed a manner of conquest which previous kingdoms, the “fathers” and the “fathers’ fathers,” had never before tried. Rome acquired much of its territory not by violently taking it, but by peaceably accepting it as a gift. Why did kings often will their dominions to Rome in those days? Because Rome would “scatter among them the prey, and spoil, and riches.” Being under the aegis of Rome had many economic and security advantages. Verse 24 concludes with “a time” prophecy. One “time” is one year. According to the Day-year Principle, Rome would “forecast his devices” (conceive his plans) “even for” 360 years. When was this period to commence? The next verse provides the only Biblical answer.

Daniel 11:25 tells of a fierce battle between the king of the north and the king of the south. The passage tells of the southern army being defeated, though it was “great and mighty,” by the merely “great” northern army. Secular history bears out that at the Battle of Actium, fought in 31 B.C., the beautiful queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, and her lover, Mark Antony, commanded a massive armada; the smaller naval force of Augustus Caesar defeated them. To the question, “Why was the king of the south (Egypt) defeated?” the verse answers, “they [Rome] shall forecast devices against him.” Here is seen the beginning of Rome forecasting devices – something it was to do for 360 years according to the previous verse. The year in which the Battle of Actium was fought is the only year which can be associated with the beginning of Rome forecasting devices for a time. The significance of 31 B.C. as a starting date for the time prophecy is confirmed when we note that exactly 360 years later, in 330 A.D., Constantine, the Roman emperor at the time, moved the seat of his government from the city of Rome to Constantinople (which he called New Rome) bringing an end to the supremacy of the Western Roman Empire.

Daniel 11:26-27 gives more historical details about Mark Antony and Augustus Caesar. Antony’s fate is described in verse 26. In verse 27, the lie-riddled alliance which existed between Antony and Augustus prior to the Battle of Actium is said to come to an end “at the time appointed,” that is, at the beginning of the 360-year “time” prophecy of verse 24. The reasonableness of this interpretation, in light of history, is yet more evidence that the Battle of Actium marked the beginning of pagan, western Rome’s “time” of supremacy.

Smith gives a most natural explanation of the fulfillment of verse 28:

Two returnings from foreign conquest are here brought to view. The first was after the events narrated in verse 26, 27, and the second, after this power had had indignation against the holy covenant, and had performed exploits. The first was fulfilled in the return of Augustus after his expedition against Egypt and Antony…

The next great enterprise of the Romans after the overthrow of Egypt, was the expedition against Judea and the capture and destruction of Jerusalmen [70 A.D.]. The holy covenant is doubtless the covenant which God has maintained with His people under different forms in different ages of the world…

[Rome] performed great exploits, and again returned to his own land.[24]

Also, Smith notes that the phrase “At the time appointed” in verse 29 likely refers to the end of the prophetic “time” of verse 24, bringing the narrative to the year 330 A.D. The pioneer explains that when the Christian emperor Constantine moved the seat of the Roman Empire to Constantinople, history had reached the beginning of the end of the Western Roman Empire; no longer would war campaigns “forecast” (devised) in the city of Rome – the Western Empire’s “strong holds”[25] – be “as the former, or as the latter,”[26] no longer would they be successful like the victorious campaigns against Egypt or Judea referred to in previous verses. While agreeing with Smith that verse 29 brings the reader to the year 330, Marc Swearingen, a modern historicist commentator on Daniel 11, gives the phrase “shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter” a different (and perhaps a more historically viable) explanation.[27] Swearingen notes that when Constantine moved to Constantinople, geographically speaking, he moved “toward,” and not “to” or “against,” the south.  This Roman movement towards the south was not for the purpose of attack “as the former, or as the latter.”

Less than a century after the reign of Constantine, the Western Empire’s complete collapse was finalized by the trumpet judgments of Revelation 8. Fulfilling the symbolism of the First Trumpet, Alaric, king of the Visigoths came against a significant fraction of the Roman Empire at the end of the fourth century A.D. The famous historian, Edward Gibbon, makes clear the fulfillment of Revelation 8:7 in his description of the Gothic invasion:

The Gothic nation was in arms at the first sound of the trumpet, says the historian. And in the uncommon severity of the winter, they rolled their ponderous wagons over the broad and icy band of the river. The fertile fields of Phocis and Boeotia were crowned with a deluge of barbarians: the males were massacred; the females and cattle of the flaming villages were driven away. The deep and bloody traces of the march of the Goths could easily be discovered after several years.

The poet Claudian pathetically lamented the fate of his trees, which must blaze in the conflagration of the whole country. The pastures of Gaul in which the flocks and herds grazed, were suddenly changed into a desert, distinguished from the solitude of nature only by smoking ruins. The consuming flames of war spread over the greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul.

Alaric again spread his ravages over Italy. During four years, the Goths ravaged and reigned over it without control. And in the pillage and fire of Rome, the streets of the city were filled with dead bodies; the flames consumed many public and private buildings; and the ruins of a palace remained, after a century and a half, a stately monument of the Gothic conflagration. Alaric the Goth captured and pillaged Rome in 410 A.D.

The public devotion of the age was impatient to exalt the saints and martyrs of the Catholic Church on the altars of Diana and Hercules. The union of the Roman Empire was dissolved. Its genius was humbled in the dust. The armies of the unknown barbarians issuing from the frozen North had established their victorious reign over the fairest provinces of Europe. Like hail that comes in the wintry, cold times, the barbarians battered the northern frontiers of the Roman Empire.[28]

The next major scourge to come upon Rome came from the sea. In 428 A.D., Genseric became the fearsome king of the Vandals. He developed a powerful navy and took control of the Mediterranean. His were the “ships of Chittim” which would come against the Roman king of the north.[29] In 455, Genseric sacked Rome and wrecked greater havoc in the city than had the Goths over four decades earlier.

The prophet [John] was shown a great mountain, burning with fire, cast into the sea.[30] It was like a mighty stone cast into the waters, causing wave after wave to beat against the defenseless shores; or like an active volcano in the midst of the sea which periodically caused the waters to boil. This agrees with the description of the inroads of the Vandals. “In the spring of each year [between 461 and 467] they equipped a formidable navy in the port of Carthage; and Genseric himself, though in a very advanced age, still commanded in person the most important expeditions…. The Vandals repeatedly visited the coasts of Spain, Liguria, Tuscany, Campania, Lucania, Bruttium, Apulia, Calabria, Venetia, Dalmatia, Epirus, Greece, and Sicily…. Their arms spread desolation and terror, from the columns of Hercules to the mouth of the Nile.”[31]

As for the Third Trumpet judgment, the invasion of Italy by Attila the Hun fulfills the symbolism of Revelation 8:10-11. In 452 A.D., Attila’s horde arrived at the Alps – the “fountains of waters” – and then entered into Italy, completely destroying cities and villages as it marched towards Rome. According to Haskel,

…the city escaped the hand of Attila, its salvation being purchased by the gift of the princess Honoria, with an immense dowry. The bitterness of the portion which Rome drank is well described as wormwood. The “star” which fell upon the fountains of waters, retreated to his home in Hungary, where his light was extinguished [32].

Attila died the year after his meteoric (fiery and short-lived) campaign in Italy. Finally, at the sound of the Fourth Trumpet, the western Roman Empire ceased to exist. The historicist commentator, Dr. Ken Matthews, gives an excellent summary of the fulfillment of Revelation 8:12 –

The symbols of the sun, moon, and stars may suggest the great luminaries of the Roman government – the emperors, the senators, and the consuls. The last emperor of Western Rome was Romulus, who in derision was called Augustulus, or the diminutive Augustus. Western Rome fell to Odoacer [the Heruli] in A.D. 476…

When the sun is extinguished, it turns all into night. With the loss of the emperor of Rome, the sun set on the Western Christian Roman Empire – it was night. With the loss of the senate and the consulships later on, even the moon didn’t illuminate the night, nor did the stars.[33]

After 476 A.D., nothing remained of the Western Roman Empire but pieces…ten pieces, to be exact. Bringing to a conclusion multiple chapters describing history during the Western Roman Empire’s twilight years, A. T. Jones, in his monumental work, The Great Empires of Prophecy, From Babylon to the Fall of Rome, wrote,

We have now described the origin, traced the course, and marked the establishment, of the ten kingdoms that arose upon the destruction of the Western Empire of Rome. The ten are the Alemanni, the Franks, the Burgundians, the Suevi, the Vandals, the Visigoths, the Saxons, the Ostrogoths, the Lombards, and the Heruli.

Eight of these are designated by Gibbon in a single paragraph; in giving the history of the conversion of the barbarians, he says: “The formidable Visigoths universally adopted the religion of the Romans, with whom they maintained a perpetual intercourse of war, of friendship, or of conquest. In their long and victorious march from the Danube to the Atlantic Ocean, they converted their allies; they educated the rising generation; and the devotion which reigned in the camp of Alaric, or the court of Toulouse, might edify or disgrace the palaces of Rome and Constantinople. During the same period, Christianity was embraced by almost all the barbarians, who established their kingdoms on the ruins of the Western Empire: the Burgundians in Gaul, the Suevi in Spain, the Vandals in Africa, the Ostrogoths in Pannonia, and the various bands of mercenaries [Heruli], that raised Odoacer to the throne of Italy. The Franks and the Saxons still persevered in the errors of paganism; but the Franks obtained the monarchy of Gaul by their submission to the example of Clovis, and the Saxon conquerors of Britain were reclaimed from their savage superstition by the missionaries of Rome.”

In the same chapter, he names another nation, the Lombards after their removal from the Danube to Italy. He mentions their recent conversion to Christianity, and their final adoption of the Catholic faith instead of Arianism, thus: “Gregory the spiritual conqueror of Britain encouraged the pious Theodelinda, queen of the Lombards, to propagate the Nicene faith among the victorious savages, whose recent Christianity was polluted by the Arian heresy. Her devout labors still left room for the industry and success of future missionaries, and many cities of Italy were still disputed by hostile bishops. But the cause of Arianism was gradually suppressed by the weight of truth, of interest, and of example; and the controversy which Egypt had derived from the Platonic school was terminated, after a war of three hundred years, by the final conversion of the Lombards of Italy.” And we have already given his designation of the Alemanni as “a great and permanent nation.”

Here are named exactly ten nations “who established their kingdoms on the ruins of the Western Empire.”

Assuredly no one can suppose for a moment that Gibbon wrote with any intentional reference to an exposition of the prophecy. Nevertheless he has given an exposition of it; because he has written the one single authoritative history of the times of the fulfilment of this prophecy. That history is itself an exposition, and the very best one, of the prophecy in question. Therefore all that has been attempted in this narration is simply to produce, from the authoritative history, the history of the ten kingdoms as they were developed and established. This list, as the history develops it, will bear the test of the closest legitimate criticism; and it is the only list that will bear it.[34]

What prophecies were inadvertently exposited by Gibbon when he brought to light the ten nations which rose to replace Rome’s Empire as it collapsed? We answer, the prophecies 1) of the ten toes on the legs of iron in the second chapter of Daniel, 2) of the ten horns on the fourth beast in Daniel 7, and 3) of the ten horns on the great red dragon of Revelation 12 (which is the “scarlet beast” of Revelation 17). Both the ten toes and the ten horns clearly represent the eventual fragmentation of the Western Roman Empire (complete before the sixth century A.D.) into ten kingdoms.

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[1] Daniel 11:13.

[2] Uriah Smith. Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation, 242.

[3] Daniel 11:14.

[4] Daniel 11:13.

[5] Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation, 243.

[6] End-from-the-Beginning Principle. Isaiah 46:10.

[7] Daniel 11:15.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Daniel 11:17.

[10] Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation, 252.

[11] Daniel 11:19.

[12] Daniel 11:20.

[13] Revelation 12:3

[14] Revelation 12:4, Matthew 2:7-19.

[15] John Charles Tarver. 1902.

[16] Testimonies IV, 519.

[17] Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation, 256-257.

[18] Publius Tacitus. The Annals, Book VI, 50-51.

[19] Daniel 9:26.

[20] Daniel 2:33.

[21] Daniel 7:7.

[22] Daniel 8:9.

[23] Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation, 258.

[24] Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation, 263-266.

[25] Daniel 11:24.

[26] Daniel 11:29.

[27] Tidings out of the Northeast. Remnant Publications, Coldwater, MI. 2006. Page 141.

[28] Edward Gibbon. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. II (New York, NY: The Modern Library by Random House, n.d.), chapters XXX-XXXIII, ending on 242.

[29] Daniel 11:30. Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation, 267.

[30] Revelation 8:8.

[31] Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation, 156. 

[32] Stephen N. Haskel. The Story of the Seer of Patmos, 151. Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall (vol III, chapter XXXVI) is quoted from.

[33] Revelation Reveals Jesus, vol. I, 456-457.

[34] Pages 677-678.

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