Chapter 10—The 4th Empire, Pagan Rome, part 3
Mystery Babylon and the Stone Kingdom, part 32— The distinguishing marks of the pagan Roman Empire
Welcome back! Where were we? We were marching through our mini-series on the 4th Empire described in the biblical prophecy from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. We have identified that empire as pagan Rome. Let us now look much more closely at how the pagan Roman Empire fulfills that prophecy as well as the separate vision of Daniel.
We were referencing Daniel 7, so go there now or pull that up separately if you would like. Now notice in verses 15 through 18 that Daniel is troubled by the visions of all four of these kingdoms, and he says he inquired and was “made to know the interpretation of the things.” (v 16).
But apparently, there was something that really troubled him about the fourth one, and so in verse 19, he inquired for even more information about this fourth kingdom-empire. And then the entire rest of the chapter concerns this empire and what follows it.
So, with that much space given to the fourth kingdom, as compared to a portion of a verse for the other three, do you think there might be some greater importance in the fourth empire? It seems to imply that it would be the worst, it would be the strongest, it would last the longest, and it would have a wider dominion.
That is all true, as we shall see as we continue in these studies. We can only get to first base right now, as we examine some of the distinguishing marks of the pagan Roman Empire and see how they fit precisely. There may be more but let me discuss just three or four of these marks.
The first is in Daniel 7, verse 7, where the prophet Daniel sees this vision of a monstrous beast. It is such a nightmare of a monster that he cannot even identify it with any living creature and so he has to resort to describing its various parts.
So, the terrifying horribleness of this fourth empire is the first characteristic. The words used in verses 7 are dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and from v. 19, exceeding dreadful.
We see that these are almost synonymous terms, but they are piled up on one another to provide a picture of the absolute terror which was inspired by this beast-government. Hmmm...Terror-government... government-terror, government as terrorists... Hmmm... just thinking... Interesting, isn’t it? Anyhow, symbolically, this would foretell a kingdom so powerful that (if you look at verse 23), it says it would “devour the whole earth”.
And that brings us to the second mark of this fourth kingdom-empire. This refers to the use that this beast-monster made of its teeth and its nails or claws.
In the natural world, a wild beast uses its claws to both subdue and kill its prey, and then to tear it up into bite-sized pieces. Then it uses its teeth to continue to tear up and then to grind its food so that it can swallow and digest it.
So we can see from verse 7 that the phrases “it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it:” and from verse 19 the phrases, “whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;” that all this is symbolic of an empire which, as it says in verse 23, would “devour the whole earth.”
I want you to note very carefully the use of that word. It says this kingdom would “devour” the whole earth. Now, first, we must understand that the word “earth” must be understood in context. It does not refer to the entire globe.
It does not refer to China or Peru, but only to those areas of the earth where the children of Israel had been scattered over the centuries by the time the Roman empire came on the stage.
But my focus here is really on that word devour. Remember the saying that “you are what you eat?” If you consume carrots, the carrots are broken down in our digestive tract and the molecules and atoms of the carrots become part of the make-up of our bodies, right? Well, now recall that in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in Daniel 2, verse 34:
Daniel 2:34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.
35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together...
That is enough. The point is that this shows us that there is something about each empire—from ancient Babylon until today, something that continues through each empire all down through the ages. Because from verse 35, it is evident that they all still exist in some way or another.
And they are all destroyed at the same time, or in the same process, as a result of the stone smacking the image on its feet. Do you see that? That is vital to remember. We will come back to this idea from time to time as we bring more of the pieces of this mystery to the forefront.
So as Rome conquered “the earth” it devoured peoples and nations. That is to say, Rome was able to digest and absorb and bring under its control many nations and peoples so successfully that the Roman Empire in its various forms stood virtually unchallenged in power and strength and dominion for a longer time than all of the three preceding empires put together!
And I say that Rome was virtually unchallenged because those of you who have read another book by Steven Collins called, Parthia, understand that there is another story we have not been told, by and large, in our standard history textbooks.
The fact is that the Parthian Empire was the other great superpower of that age. The Parthian Empire stood for centuries but they eventually lost out to Rome. It’s a great read and we carry that book as well. We carry that book as well.
Look at Daniel 7:7 once more. The third distinguishing characteristic of this fourth great kingdom-empire is found it its description as being different. Verse 7 says: “and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it”. And within this third mark, we will find several evidences of its diversity.
Daniel does not specify how it was different from all the beast-governments before it, but I think that we have already mentioned several of the characteristics which set it apart from the ancient Babylonian, the Medo-Persian and the Greek Empires.
And that would be that it was the strongest, and it lasted the longest by a multiple factor; and it had the widest dominion, and that it was the most vicious and ferocious of all. Because note in verse 7 that it says that it “brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it:”
I have often puzzled over what that word “residue” referred to and then it came to me. The way I understand it is that if it could not eat or devour a particular nation, then like a savage animal in a rage, this monster called Rome would destroy it, just for the sake of destroying.
Rome was able to conquer and digest or absorb many nations and peoples. But there were some peoples that proved to be just too recalcitrant. These were the residue or the remnant who could not be absorbed. So, what happened to them? Well, they were stamped on and trampled on.
It’s the idea that if you—some particular people or nation—will not submit to being absorbed into our empire like all the rest of the nations, then we are going to crush you and tear you to pieces just because we want to.
And isn’t that what happened to the Judah nation in Palestine? Time and time again, the Hebrews rebelled and refused to be absorbed. Consequently, they were crushed each time with ferocious cruelty by the Roman legions.
Now before I tell you the fourth distinguishing characteristic, I want you to remember the debate once again between the Higher Critics who claim Greece was the fourth kingdom, and those of us who contend that Rome is the fourth kingdom. And if there are any new readers, we gave solid biblical proof a couple blogs back.
But we have now observed in Daniel 7:7 that this beast kingdom has iron teeth, which clearly identifies it with Rome, since iron was the predominant metal in the weaponry of Rome. Remember, the Greek armies did not have iron weapons, but rather, bronze.
However, we also note that in verse 19, again the iron teeth are mentioned, but there it is also mentioned that this monster has bronze nails or claws. And that would identify it with the belly and thighs of brass in the image found in Daniel, chapter two.
This might seem confusing at first, but I believe the answer lies in that principle which I told you earlier was very important—and which we have just finished discussing—namely, that each successive empire-kingdom absorbs something from all the previous empires.
So therefore, it would be quite in keeping with that principle because here we have Rome, which is identified with iron, but it also includes the bronze of the Greek empire. Do you see that?
Now, a couple lectures back, I also pointed out how in this succession of empires we see a progression in the metals. Let me repeat that: we see how the first one, Babylon, is identified with gold, then Medo-Persia is identified with silver, which is generally valued as inferior to gold—and that still holds true today, doesn’t it?
As we see gold selling recently for above $1900 per ounce, as of today. And the spot price for silver was over $23 an ounce. A huge disparity. I personally believe that silver is enormously undervalued, but it would still be considered inferior to gold even if it rose 30-fold.
Then we see in the image that the Greek Empire was identified with brass, i.e., bronze, and then Rome is identified with iron. We can readily see the scale of decreasing value of the metals in the succession of empires.
But there is another progression in the succession of empires which I now want to call to your attention. And that is the form of government associated with each. Babylon was an absolute monarchy. The king’s word was law and he held all the power.
Then it changed somewhat when we come to the Medo-Persian empire. It was also a monarchy, but there was a difference. The king ruled but he, too, was subject to a law once he had signed it. See Daniel 6, verse 8, if you want to check that out. Once a law was made, it could not be repealed, even by the king himself.
Then we come to the Greek empire and what form of government first arose in ancient Greece, ladies, and gentlemen? Yes, democracy. Of course, Alexander the Great was a military dictator, but nevertheless we are not saying that a given form of government was extant throughout the entire time of each empire, but simply that there is an association between a particular form of government and each of these empires.
Therefore, Greece is associated with democracy. And if you will recall, I mentioned early on in this series that our Founding Fathers loathed and deplored democracy as one of the worst forms of government.
Yet we are told far and wide today that America is a democracy and that we are in Iraq to “establish democracy.” Somebody is trying to lie and manipulate us, fellow citizens. America was not established as a democracy but as a republic!
And so, we come to Rome, which was a republic for a time, and even as it was subtly being changed into an empire, it maintained the forms of a republic. Just as we see today. America, too, is much like the Roman empire.
Parallels have been drawn by many historians and students of history. So, to recapitulate: with each successive empire, there has been associated with it, at least for some short period in its history, an absolute monarchy, a limited monarchy, a democracy and then a republic.
Now, as I move to a close today, you will notice back in Daniel 7, verses 7 & 8 once again, that we have still not finished with verse 8, and that, also, gives us another mark of Rome which was diverse from all the others and that is that it had ten horns.
We have, of course, already mentioned the Futurist interpretation of the ten horns, and you know that I find it totally incorrect. In this chapter, we have given you some history of the pagan Roman empire.
In the next lecture, I intend to go on to explain how the ten horns moves ahead through the history of the Roman Empire when it became known as the Holy Roman Empire. And through it all, we see God’s hand directing the course of history, setting up nations and rulers as He sees fit for the glory of His mighty name. Amen.