Protagonists of the Period
G. B. Fyfe, London
Within the scope of the laws of nature, every effect must have an originating cause. And so shall it likewise be in the social and moral context of the last seven years of Gentile supremacy, the closing term of man's dreadful day.
The unprecedented turbulence, oppression and horror of the second half of Daniel's 70th prophetic "week", consisting of 1,260 actual days, will be the result of three forces of fury unleashed upon apostate Judaism in particular, and rebellious humanity in general. During the great tribulation, these active forces will be Divine, Satanic and human in origin, and the concentration of their ferocity will erupt in the vortex of Palestine. (Who can envisage a world convulsed simultaneously by the wrath of God, the wrath of the devil, and the diabolical cruelty of a dictator, claiming worship and satanically energized? We thank God fervently that the Church—every member of it—will have been removed from the realm of time, and the scene of earth before the holocaust sweeps relentlessly over a doomed world!)
Prior to considering some of the significant events of this darkest of all periods in human history, it will be necessary to take a closer look at the dominant personalities—the protagonists, characters of destiny and destruction, who will fill the stage of earth in these end-years. (Are they living today as young men—or older ones—among the Mediterranean nations, their identities not yet revealed?) The three figures in question are:
1. The Roman Prince, head extra ordinary of the western bloc of nations constituting the Roman Empire in its revived form. He will be the most powerful dictator of that day, Rev. 13.
2. The Apostate King of the Jews, usurper of David's throne in Palestine, the antichrist, and religious dictator of wide-spread influence throughout the world.
3. The King of the North, Dan. 11, another dreadful king, the fierce Assyrian, ruler of the geographical area lying to the north and north-east of Palestine.
The remainder of this article we will devote to a pen picture of the first of those protagonists—the Roman prince, and in subsequent papers we shall seek to present a portrait of the other two prominent characters in their Scriptural settings.
The lamp of prophecy, 2 Pet. 1.19, sheds its clear beams upon this final Gentile world-ruler as he emerges in various guises and in different places in the Word of God. For the first of these mentions we have to go to Daniel 7. 8, where he is symbolically portrayed as the "little horn" which suddenly springs up amongst the ten horns possessed by the fourth beast, the beast of the iron teeth and terrible appearance. The "little horn" completely overthrows three of the existing horns (i.e. kings). From this passage we learn that the coming supremo of the western world will not be simply a man of ruthless brutal power, but will also be possessed of intelligence and perception. He will be arrogantly blasphemous against the Almighty God. The expression "the little horn" may indicate that he will come of no established ruling line, but will rise up unexpectedly from the anarchical conditions of that day, much in the manner of a Hitler or a Mussolini.
When we move into Daniel 9, there we find another brief appearance of this individual, in this passage designated "the prince that shall come", v. 26. This covenant-making dictator of the Revived Roman Empire, shall command the cessation of the religious worship of the people of Palestine and their God-ordained sacrificial system, in the middle of the disastrous seven years of Daniel's last prophetic "week".
From the Old Testament's inspired predictions, we turn now to the Book of Daniel's counterpart in the New Testament—the Book of Revelation. We discover here several allusions to this extraordinary personage. For instance, is the conqueror of Revelation 6. 2 a veiled representation of the coming prince in his successful military operations?
Then in Revelation 13. 1 he reappears, this time arising out of the turbulent waters of the sea (symbolic of the restless, revolutionary state of the western democracies at the time of the end). This seven-headed, ten-horned monster from the sea will incorporate in itself the predominant characteristics of the four Gentile world-powers forecast in Daniel 7, for the first beast of Revelation 13, besides setting forth the person of the emperor, also denotes the Empire of Rome itself in its final imperial phase. The powerful and pervading image of its ruler will superimpose itself so strongly upon the sphere of his dominion, that the very empire will reproduce the evil traits of Satan's superman who shall then become the most ruthless political dictator ever to darken a godless world.
(We are aware that some students of prophecy hold the view that it is the second beast of Revelation 13 which represents the head of the Revived Roman Empire; but when the features predicated of the Roman prince and those of the king of the Jews (the antichrist) are compared, we judge that the monster from the sea must be identified as the coming prince of Gentile origin. We will elaborate on this point in the next article, when the person and power of the antichrist are dealt with.)
Finally, the somewhat enigmatical passage in Revelation 17. 9-14 gives a further fleeting glimpse of this great protagonist, the coming prince. In these verses, we discern him in the "eighth" head. Note the statements contained in verse 10:
"There are seven kings"—that is, seven heads or forms of government, indicative (it has been suggested) of the seven successive, forms of government which have evolved in the course of the fourth world-empire from its inception until its final destruction. At the time when John witnessed this vision, five of these forms of government had already come and gone, namely, the kings, the consuls, the dictators, the decemvirs and the military tribunes.
"One is"—During John's lifetime a sixth form of government was in operation, the imperial form, exercised under the Caesars. This, history records, continued until AD. 476.
"The other is not yet come". The seventh king or head, possibly "the Conqueror" of Revelation 6. 2, has but a little while to rule. After his downfall from the position of power, the seventh king rises again dramatically out of the sea, Rev. 13. 1.
This resurgence of a vanished king views the astonishing event from the human standpoint; whereas the fact that he is said to emerge from the abyss, Rev. 17. 8, stresses the Satanic nature of his revival, to become the eighth and last king in the Empire's history. (Some used to think, on the other hand, that the seventh head was actually Napoleon I. The eighth.. which is "of the seven", would then be the imperial form revived.)
To summarize the foregoing, and to set down in sequence the various references to this coming prince, we find:
(a) The seventh head probably makes an initial appearance in the New Testament Scriptures as the first horseman of the Apocalypse, the conqueror, under the first seal in Revelation 6. 2.
(b) The sudden fall from power of this seventh head may be implied in the symbolism of the fourth trumpet judgment in Revelation 8. 12, if we assume that the astronomical phenomena referred to in this verse have a figurative interpretation. The repetitive "third" in this verse would indicate the total collapse of all ordered government within the western bloc of nations.
(c) Then there is the revival of this seventh head, in a supernatural way by Satanic power, surprisingly erupting from the bottomless pit (the abyss) to become, on his re-emergence to the political scene, the eighth head, Rev. 17. 8-11. As such he inaugurates the new and ultimate regime of devilish tyranny which will hold absolute sway for 42 months in time, 13. 5. (Is it not aptly significant that in the numerology of Scripture "eight" is the resurrection number?)
(d) The eighth head of Revelation 17. 11, moreover, makes his first entry in Scripture as the eleventh horn ("the little horn") of Daniel 7. 8. This little horn sprang up mushroom-like among the existing ten horns which are emblematic of the kings (or personal rulers) of the western nations in the end-time.
Such, then, are the veiled foreshadowings in Scripture of this dreadful dictator, the political protagonist from the sea and from the abyss, whose mystic code-number is 666, Rev. 13. 18. And here the opening chapters of the Book of beginnings (Genesis) reach their culmination in the Book of consummations (Revelation) where the three-digital expression of Adam's fallen nature arrives at its full and appalling development of evil. The triad of sixes may perhaps signify the apex of human pride embodied in this man, worshipped by men, 13. 4, and manifested in spheres political, social and religious. Yet probably the full significance of this mystic code-number will be known only by those living at the time of his despotic reign.
(The reader, if not very familiar with the prophetic Word, may find the references to the different "horns" "heads" and "kings" rather bewildering, and it will be necessary to read and ponder the passages to which allusion is made, as it is difficult to amplify sufficiently the statements made here within the scope of a short article.)
Today we live in a world that is ripening fast towards the fulfilment of those awesome events—but we, as Christians, can remind our hearts that "our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ", who "is able even to subject all things unto himself", Phil. 3. 20-21 r.v.