Last week, we began a discussion on the date of authorship of the book of Revelation, highlighting the angel’s discussion with John regarding the “scarlet coloured beast … having seven heads and ten horns” (Revelation 17:3). That seven-headed, ten-horned beast is a figure used repeatedly in Revelation (Revelation 12:3, 13:1, 17:3), and shows the significant symbolic unity the book shares with Daniel’s prophecies in Daniel 7. The Four Beasts of Daniel 7 together have seven heads and ten horns (1 Lion Head, 1 Bear Head, 4 Leopard Heads, 1 Beast Head with 10 horns upon it). Whatever the differences that exist between the “red dragon” (Revelation 12:3), sea beast (Revelation 13:1) and the “scarlet coloured beast” (Revelation 17:3), they are unified in their symbolic relationship to Daniel 7. Because the beasts of Daniel 7 share a strong chronological unity with Gold, Silver, Brass and Iron kingdoms of Daniel 2, we can also draw on that chronological unity to understand the date of John’s vision.
It is clear from Revelation that John uses Danielic imagery to convey chronological order and to establish timelines. Crowns, or lack of crowns, on the beasts of Revelation 12:3, 13:1 and17:3 indicate eschatological periods from which to establish chronological significance. In Revelation 12:3, the red dragon has “seven crowns upon his heads,” which indicates that we are looking at a period during which the four empires ruled the earth. The dragon is depicted casting “the third part of the stars of heaven” down to earth. The last time this specific imagery was used, it was to describe the activity of the antagonist of Daniel 8 under the “Leopard” or “Brass” period of Greek rule:
“And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.” (Daniel 8:10)
The dragon is also depicted awaiting the birth of the “man-child” to devour him (Revelation 12:4) which is resonant of Herod’s attempt to murder the Child during the Roman empire (Matthew 2:1-8). Thus, in the introduction to Revelation 12 we see depicted two distinct events from the Greek and Roman periods preceding Christ’s ministry.
In Revelation 13:1, the sea beast has “upon his horns ten crowns,” which suggests that we are looking at a period when the beast is arisen, the ten kings are ruling the earth “and give their kingdom unto the beast” (Revelation 17:17). Clearly in Revelation 13 we see depicted a period after the fragmentation of the Roman empire into “toes” (Daniel 2:42) or “horns” (Daniel 7:7).
In Revelation 17, neither heads nor horns have crowns upon them, indicating that it is a period after Revelation 12:1-4, but before the ten horns have arisen (i.e., “the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet” (Revelation 17:12)). The “scarlet coloured beast” depicted in Revelation 17:3 is clearly chronologically between the dragon of Revelation 12:3 and the sea beast of Revelation 13:1. The angelic narrator is using Danielic imagery to establish a timeline or a chronology and to convey it to us.
The angelic narrator does this again when speaking of the beast which “was, and is not; and shall ascend” (Revelation 17:8). The phrase is at its core a Danielic description. This becomes clear in the analysis of the two judicial movements of Daniel 2:34-35.
In our series of articles, The Fifth Empire, we showed the necessity and benefit of harmonizing Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, particularly in regard to the judgment against the fourth empire. When the two chapters are harmonized, what initially appears as a single strike of the stone against the Feet of the statue actually resolves into two separate judgments. The first judgment is against the Iron & Clay feet alone, and the second judgment is against all the materials together. When the stone first struck the statue, it “smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces” (Daniel 2:34). We note for emphasis that in Daniel 2:34, the Iron & Clay are not destroyed. They are merely broken. Here it is evident that in the breaking of the feet the Toes are formed, for the Toes are not mentioned until after the impact, and the Toes explicitly signify that the fourth empire is “broken” (Daniel 2:40). The fourth empire was not broken until it was struck by the Stone. That is the first impact. Then, after the feet were broken to pieces, “the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold” are “broken to pieces together” and became “like the chaff” and disappeared entirely (Daniel 2:35). That is the second.
The necessity of harmonizing Daniel 2 and 7 in order that the two judicial movement may emerge, is seen by the fact that in chapter 2, after judgment against the Fourth Empire, the preceding empires of Brass, Silver and Gold are eventually destroyed, and “the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them” (Daniel 2:35), but in Daniel 7, after the judgment against the Fourth Empire, the preceding empires are not destroyed but are allowed to remain:
“I beheld even till the [fourth] beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.” (Daniel 7:11-12)
There must therefore be a period in Daniel 2—between the first (v. 34) and second (v. 35) strikes of the Stone—when the Gold, Silver, and Brass are allowed to continue. Thus, Daniel 2:34-35 cannot and does not depict a single swift judicial act. It depicts two.
In their failure to harmonize Daniel 2 with Daniel 7, the writers of the Early Church delivered an inconsistent testimony on the meaning of the strike of the Stone. Did the Stone figure Jesus’ first advent? Or did it figure His second? Justin Martyr thought the Stone signified Jesus’ first advent (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, chapters 32, 34 & 36). Irenæus thought the stone signified Jesus’ first advent, but that the destruction of the preceding empires would occur at His second (Irenæus, Against Heresies, Book V, Chapter 26, paragraph 2). Hippolytus thought the Stone signified Jesus’ second advent, when it would strike the Toes of the Statue, and Antichrist with them:
“After this, then, what remains, beloved, but the toes of the feet of the image, in which part shall be of iron and part of clay mixed together? … And after him [Antichrist] it remains thatthe stoneshall come from heaven whichsmote the imageand shivered it, and subverted all the kingdoms, and gave the kingdom to the saints of the Most High. Thisbecame a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” (Hippolytus, Fragments, On Daniel, Second Fragment, paragraph 2)
We believe the inconsistent testimony of the Early Church on this passage may be traced to the fact that chapters 2 and 7 were not properly harmonized. If they are not harmonized, the two judicial movements appear to be only one, and it is therefore difficult to tell when that one judgment by the Stone occurs. Because of that it is difficult to tell what the impact upon the Feet of the statue actually signifies.
When the two chapters are harmonized, four very important aspects of the visions emerge. First, there is a judgment against the fourth empire during the period of the Iron & Clay feet, and that judgment forms the Toes (Daniel 2:34); second, Antichrist must emerge from among the Iron & Clay Toes of the Fourth Empire, for he emerges from among the Horns of the Fourth Beast (Daniel 7:8); third, Antichrist arises before the judgment against the fourth empire is complete, for Daniel watched the Little Horn until the fourth beast’s “body” is “given to the burning flame” (Daniel 7:11); and fourth, Antichrist and the remaining horns survive and live beyond that first judgment against the fourth beast to face a later judgment of their own (Daniel 2:35, Daniel 7:26, Revelation 17:17).
We know Antichrist survives the judgment against the fourth empire because the preceding beasts’ lives “were prolonged” after that judgment (Daniel 7:12), and they were prolonged in the form of the Antichrist Little Horn, for that Little Horn of Daniel 7 is the sea beast of Revelation 13, which is comprised of the three preceding empires. It is in the Little Horn that their lives are prolonged. This can be seen in a comparison of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13:
We believe the harmonization of Daniel 2 and 7 is extremely important to our understanding of the chronology revealed in Revelation 17 because of how the Little Horn is characterized here. The Little Horn, while rising from the Fourth Beast, is a representation of three other empires that have come and gone. The Lion, the Leopard and the Bear—or the Gold, the Silver and the Brass—have long since “had their dominion taken away” (Daniel 7:12), and in that sense they are in the past relative to the chronological position of Rome in the eschatological sequence. They were in existence but are not in existence any more.
But the fact that “their lives were prolonged for a season and time” (Daniel 7:12) in the form of the Little Horn which emerges after the Iron Legs, also means that in another sense those three empires are in the future relative to the chronological position of Rome in the eschatological sequence. They are not in existence for most of the period of the Roman Empire, but they will be.
We may say therefore that Antichrist is the embodiment of the Lion, the Bear and the Leopard which were before Rome (Daniel 7:12, Revelation 13:2), and also that the Antichrist is in fact Roman in essence for he “is of the seven” (Revelation 17:11) and “the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7), and finally, that the Antichrist would later endure as a post-Roman manifestation of the preceding empires (Daniel 7:12). The Beast of Revelation 17 with its seven heads and ten horns may therefore be said in some way to encompass all of these different chronological manifestations. It “was” in the sense that the Lion, the Leopard the Bear are past, it “is” in the sense that it is “of the seven,” and it will be in the sense that it is an “eighth” (Revelation 17:11), and through him the Lion, the Leopard the Bear will be granted an extension of life after the judgment against the Fourth Beast.
Thus we have a conveniently pithy formula by which the chronography of Antichrist may be expressed, but it is only accurate during a specific period in history—the beast that was, is not, yet is, and shall come, and shall go to perdition:
“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition … the beast that was, and is not, and yet is” (Revelation 17:8).
“the beast that was, and is not … and goeth into perdition” (Revelation 17:11)
That description—”the beast that was, and is not, and yet is”—as can be seen, is an essentially Danielic expression. It summarizes Daniel’s portrayal of the Little Horn of Daniel 7, for it originates from Rome, but arises after Rome, and is constituted of the empires that preceded Rome. That it is indeed Antichrist that is in view when the angel speaks of the beast’s past and future manifestations may be understood by the consistent descriptions the angelic narrator assigns to each:
“and all the world wondered after the beast. … and they worshipped the beast, … And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life…” (Revelation 13:3-8)
“…they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” (Revelation 17:8)
We highlight the cryptic phrase, “was, and is not, and yet is” to emphasize the Danielic significance of the narrator’s timeline. Twice now in Revelation 17, the angelic narrator has offered to us a chronological timestamp of the vision which places the writing of Revelation in relation to its future and its past. Of the “seven kings” of the current kingdom, five are past, one is present, one is future (Revelation 17:17). Of the beast, we can say that it was, is not, yet will be, yet in some way now is (Revelation 17:8). To these two we may add the fact which we pointed out at the beginning: the beast of Revelation 17:3 is chronologically between the dragon of Revelation 12:3 and the sea beast of Revelation 13:1. Surely by these three chronological cues, the angel is telling us something about when John received his vision, for his vision is constantly being described between two discernible events or timeframes. Notably, the angel is using Danielic imagery to convey the information to us.
On that note, we will conclude this week by returning briefly to the timeline depicted in Daniel 2. Of the four empires depicted, the fourth gets the most detailed attention and its timeline is subdivided into three segments. The Iron period indicates the time when the fourth empire is “strong as iron” (Daniel 2:40). The Iron mixed with Clay indicates when the fourth “kingdom shall be divided” (Daniel 2:41). The Toes indicate when “the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken” (Daniel 2:42). Since Revelation was written during the Roman Empire it must have been written during one of those three periods. We can rule out at least one period because the vision takes place when the ten Toes or ten Kings “have received no kingdom as yet” (Revelation 17:12). We can therefore rule out the period of the Toes or Horns. That leaves only two Danielic periods as candidates during the Fourth Empire for the time period of John’s vision—the period of the Iron Legs and the period of the Iron & Clay Feet.
The vision was provided to John because “the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3). An eschatologically significant transition was about to occur. John was either writing during the period of the Legs when the period of the Feet was just about to begin; or he was writing during the period of the Feet when the period of the Toes was just about to begin. The “seven kings” of Revelation 17:10 are either kings of the Iron period or kings of the Iron & Clay period. What we will show next week is that John received his vision because the period of the Iron & Clay Feet was about to begin, and thus he must have been writing in the period of the Iron Legs. The “time” that was “at hand” was the transition from Legs to Feet. Only then would the stone smite the Statue and break the Fourth Empire to pieces.