On a recent visit to the town of Aachen, in Germany, the sculptured beast pictured here brought to mind the symbology of Scripture, and in particular the relevance of such a symbol here in Germany.
In the Bible men and nations are depicted as beasts -- for example Psalm 49:20 declares:
"Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish."
Again, in Ecclesiastes 3:15 we read this:
"I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts."
Small wonder then, that in representing the proud empires of men, the Almighty depicts them as beasts. This we find to be the case in Daniel's prophecy, where world empires such as those of Babylon, the Medo-Persians, Greece and Rome are set forth as lion, bear, leopard and "a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible."
The Roman Beast
Daniel tells us that he received the vision of these beasts during the reign of Belshazzar, King of Babylon (Daniel 7:1). A great variety of evidence shows us that the lion-phase of this prophecy was under development when the vision was received -- for example, the lion is used elsewhere to depict the Assyro-Babylonian Empire (see Jer. 50:17) and as can be seen today from winged lions in the British Museum or from the lions adorning the Ishtar gate in the Berlin Museum -- this was how the Babylonians depicted themselves. A reference point is thus firmly established so that when we are told about the fourth beast, we know beyond doubt that it refers to the Roman Empire. "Thus he said, the fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth" (verse 23).
This fourth kingdom, the Roman Empire, was seen to have ten horns -- and we are told that "the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise..." These ten kings -- or sovereign powers -- were to arise "out of" the Roman Empire, so that we are left with no real alternative other than to see here the kingdoms of Europe which arose out of the old Roman Empire.
We note then, that in considering this fourth beast, we not only see that it represents the Roman Empire, but it also suggests the development of its history. The European "horns" arise, and then "behold, there came up among them another little horn" (Dan. 7:8). We then notice Daniel's remark that "the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them UNTIL the Ancient of days came, and judgement was given to the saints of the most High..." or until the establishment of the kingdom of God upon earth.
Here is an item of great interest to us. The prophecy teaches us that there is to be a European horn-power which will make war with God's saints until the time comes for the kingdom of God to be set up. Who then, is this blaspheming and cruel enemy of God's people?
A New Testament Vision
When we come to the New Testament it is not surprising that we find the same symbolic imagery. In the book of Revelation empires are again seen as beasts, and for the same reasons. In fact, Daniel's ten-horned beast -- the Roman empire with its European "horns" -- is quite recognizable in Revelation 12:3 where it is called a "dragon". Alas, we see it in Revelation 13:1 and yet again with certain modifications is chapter 17:3.
The different versions of the ten-horned beast in Revelation represent the Roman beast at different stages of its historical development. That this is so can be seen from the fact that a continuous story unfolds as we move from one version of the beast to the next -- we can see for example, how that power and authority is transferred from one phase to the next (see chart).
It is interesting to note the fact that one standard of the Roman Empire was a dragon. It was originally an emblem for Egypt (Ezekiel 29:3); it was the serpent power, or sin, in its political organization -- but that power was taken from Egypt by Babylon, then by the Medo-Persians and then by the Greeks until it was finally found in Rome. Thus it is seen as "the great dragon...that old serpent, called the devil, and satan, which deceiveth the whole world..." (Rev. 12:9).
In Revelation 13 we see that the 10 horned Roman dragon gives his power, and his seat
(or throne), and great authority to the 10-horned beast, the Roman Empire, but at a
different stage. It now has "a name of blasphemy" indicating that it is bringing
disrepute to God's name (see verse 6). This informs us that the 10-horned beast has now
been brought under the influence of an apostasy -- this happened in A.D. 312 when
Constantine adopted the Catholic form of Christianity.
Now we know from history that Constantine moved the seat of his dragon empire from Rome to Constantinople at the entrance of the Black Sea. Soon after that the barbarians were ripping the empire apart and establishing their own independent kingdoms -- the kingdoms of Europe. The historical development now proceeded along two quite separate lines -- one in the east, centered in Constantinople, the other in the west and centered in Rome.
The Lamb-Like Beast
This now brings us to another phase in the history of the beast, but this time it is not a beast seen with ten horns -- because the empire has been divided -- it is now a beast that comes up "out of the earth" and has a lamb-like, or "Christian" appearance, yet retains the dialect of his Roman origin.
Daniel's fourth beast and the ten-horned beast of Rev. 13:1 come out of the sea, but the two-horned beast that now appears comes from "the earth". It is a land-locked power and not a Mediterranean power; note its principle features and actions as set out in the chart (right), it is clearly identifiable as the Holy Roman Empire which appeared on the map of Central Europe.
The Holy Roman Empire was a system founded by Charlemagne (and by the pope who crowned him) in A.D. 800. This Charlemagne declared himself to be "the devoted protector and humble helper of holy Christendom" (following the example of Constantine) and ruled his empire from Aachen (where we found the rather grotesque sculpture of a beast!). The throne upon which Charlemagne's successors ruled their empire is also preserved at Aachen; upon taking this seat the king performed a legal act whereby each new ruler took possession of the "Roman Empire of the German Nation" -- later known as the Holy Roman Empire. Thus:
"...he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast..." (Rev. 13:12)
This beast-empire lasted for a thousand years, from 800 A.D. until it was dismembered by Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th Century. Thus "his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain" (Rev. 16:10). The history of the past 150 years has witnessed untiring efforts to revive the German beast and it has been this goal which has plunged the world into two of the greatest wars ever waged by men.
Reviving the German Beast
Although the kingdom of the beast was "darkened" by the Napoleonic wars, we read that "they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds" (Rev. 13:11). So it is that when we move forward to verse 13 to 16, the beast is actively engaged with the dragon and the false prophet gathering the nations "to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" -- Armageddon.
The first attempt to revive the Holy Roman Empire (or, 'Roman Empire of the German nation') was made by Otto Von Bismarck. Larousse history says:
"By December 1870 the principle of a unified German Empire had been accepted...The new German Empire -- the Second Reich -- was as Prussian as the Holy Roman Empire had been -- at least in theory -- universal: and it was by this Empire that Alsace-Lorraine, described in the Treaty of Frankfurt as Reichsland -- Imperial territory -- was annexed."
It was this German Empire that made the bid to dominate Europe, and so led the world
into the First World War of 1914-18. In a world when the Bible was better known than it is
today, contemporaries saw this war as Allies confronting the Austro-German beast. When, at
tremendous cost in money and men the beast was defeated and the Second Reich collapsed
into its darkened state again, it was not long before plans were in place for another
attempt -- a third Reich.
The Nazi Beast
The British, French and Belgian troops that occupied Germany at the close of World War One (The Great War) were evacuated in stages that completed withdrawal by 1930. Following this, German troops were mobilized -- in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles -- and Hitler's Third Reich emerged, and in 1936 formed an alliance with Mussolini so creating the Rome-Berlin Axis. It was Winston Churchill who, in wartime language, referred to "the Nazi Beast".
We do not need to recount here the beastly character of this dreadful and terrible system which rose to dominate all Europe during this period 1939-45. True to the character of its earlier form in the Holy Roman Empire, it tolerated no opposition. It made war with the saints, or holy ones, both natural Jews and spiritual. It was a nightmare for the Jewish people as well as for those few who would not compromise their faith.
By 1945, allied forces had driven the beast back to his lair (as Churchill expressed it), but it was here in his bunker that Adolph Hitler penned his last words to the world:
"Centuries may pass away, but out of the ruins of our towns and monuments hatred will grow against those finally responsible for everything, International Jewry, and its helpers..."
From 1945 to 1990, the beast was confined to the darkness of his pit once again. Now, just 45 years after the death of Hitler, a united Germany has risen once more -- and is rising, to dominate a European Union.
Now it is only in the light of the information provided by Scripture and history, that we can correctly understand developments today. This is true with regards to Germany as well as with the wider European picture.
So where are events leading today?
As already noted from Revelation 16, although the kingdom of the beast is filled with darkness in verse 10, there is no repentance. The same old objectives will be sought. So, no matter what appearances and statements by political leaders may suggest, to the contrary, this beast has not changed. This is very important in understanding current events in Germany today. It is why we are seeing a united Germany gaining the leading role in the European Union.
In Revelation 16:13,14 certain powers are seen to be in co-operation -- the dragon, the beast and the false prophet. These three are seen to be influencing the nations and working "to gather them" in readiness for the battle of that great day of God Almighty. We must also note the harmony of spirit coming from each -- but let us not miss the fact that there is thus co-operation, a working together "to gather" or unite. What we are seeing here is a coming together of all the elements that make up the old ten-horned Roman beast. The dragon element which Constantine had moved from Rome to Constantinople, continued there until 1453 when the city fell to the Turks. The seat of the dragon was then moved north to Moscow, or "the third Rome" as it became known. Thus, the heirs to the Roman Empire were to be found with the Czar (Caesar) in Russia, with the German Kaiser (Caesar) and with the pope (Pontifex Maximus) in Rome. If these three aspects are brought together, then we would have -- to all intents and purposes -- a revived Roman Empire, or ten-horned beast.
When we turn to Revelation 17:3 that is precisely what we do find. Here is "the beast that was, and is not, and yet is" (verse 8). The ten-horned Roman beast that once existed is now seen in a revived form.
In July 1990 a leading British minister in the Thatcher government, Nicholas Ridley, caused an uproar by claiming that the European Economic Union was a "German racket to take over the whole of Europe". In a series of newspaper articles he outlined his fears of German domination especially in the economic sphere, which would eventually lead to other areas. It was suggested at the time that others in the cabinet -- including Margaret Thatcher herself -- privately held the same view. Certainly the view has been discussed, though rarely at such a high level.
In a 1991 article, the well known journalist, Peregrine Worsthorne, wrote:
"Germany would like to see rapid progress towards a single currency, monetary union and so on. Having the strongest currency, such a union would allow her to milk Western Europe all the more successfully for her economic expansion in the East. That is the reality behind Germany's talk of monetary and political union. Monetary and political union in Western Europe would, in effect, allow Germany to determine the destinies of both Western and Eastern Europe -- the fulfillment of an ancestral dream" (Sun. Telegraph. Jan 6, 1991).
In an article entitled The Rise and Rise of Germany, published by Intelligence International Ltd, (August 1994) the efforts of Germany to dominate Europe go far beyond the economic sphere. The article points out that it was German self interest which triggered the civil war in Yugoslavia:
"There is little doubt that it was Germany's precipitate recognition of the independent ambitions of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, without any corresponding concern for the fate of the Serbs, that sparked the Yugoslav civil war. What is worrying is that this was not just a German misjudgment, but a deliberate policy to create a German sphere of influence in post-communist Eastern Europe... It is inconceivable that Germany made a misjudgment. It was by far the best informed of the European states on the Balkans, and it knew precisely what it was doing. It pursued its chosen policy ruthlessly even though it led inevitably to a bloody civil war. The intention was, and is, to carve out of Yugoslavia a series of pro-German satrapies in order to give Germany a continuous line of semi-dependent colonies from Austria to Albania."
The German "beast of the earth" is thus rising again, but in order to achieve her long-cherished objectives she must come to terms with her counterpart in the east -- the Russian dragon. In accordance with the prophecies we have discussed above, Germany today is moving into a dominant position in Europe -- and from that position of strength she will form an alliance with Russia.
Germany and Russia
In his 1991 article, Peregrine Worsthorne wrote:
"Collapse in Russia, the rise of economic and political power in Germany, instability in the new East European democracies all add up to a new European political pattern in which the main players will be Germany and Russia. On the relations between those two countries Europe's future will depend.. relations between Germany and Russia, now embodied in a treaty, are as much a "special relationship" as that between Britain and America."
It is that special relationship that we expect to see develop, until the ten-horned beast that was ascends again to the amazement of those who dwell on the earth (Rev. 17:8).
In this article we have given a brief glimpse at these developments through the lens of symbolic prophecy. Another prophecy which brings Russia and Germany together is that of Ezekiel 38, but that consideration will have to be made on another occasion.
As we look at such matters some may be inclined to think that the power struggle of the nations has little direct bearing upon matters of faith and salvation. This is very far from true. Such prophecy enlightens us about the times in which we live. One result of this should be that we be moved to do everything within our power to tell others of the impending crisis. How can we possibly remain silent when we know that those around us face a great peril? If people can be brought to understand these things, they will then want to know what they need to do about it. It is when we find people in that frame of mind and enlightened by the prophetic word, that the idea of salvation becomes meaningful. It also helps us to grasp the reality of the true hope of the gospel as we see world events leading up to Christ's return and the establishment of God's kingdom upon earth -- for that is what the final outcome will be -- Rev. 11:15.