The Future Roman Empire

One of the more intriguing prophecies in the book of Daniel concerns the final of the four Gentile kingdoms that will rule the world. It is represented in Scripture by legs of iron (Dan. 2:33, 40) and a “dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong” beast (7:7, cf. vv. 23–24) that becomes Satan’s powerful and merciless instrument to make humanity serve him.

Both first-century Jews and Christians understood this final empire to be Rome. Has this prophecy been fulfilled? In Daniel 2 and 7, the fourth kingdom is terminated by the apocalyptic end of this age and the establishment of God’s promised Messianic Kingdom. How do these prophecies correlate with the first-century coming of Christ and the history of the Roman Empire since then?

Jesus Himself gave us the clues. In teaching His disciples about the future of Jerusalem, He made two references to Daniel. In Luke 21:20–24, He foretold the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, declaring it would be trampled by the nations until the Times of the Gentiles were fulfilled. This means Rome’s kingdom was not ended by Jesus’ First Advent.

Correspondingly, in Matthew 24:15, Jesus warned His disciples about a future “abomination of desolation,” a typological reference to Antiochus Epiphanes who earlier, in 167 B.C., had erected an image of the Greek god Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem to reflect himself. This act relates to the little horns of Daniel 7 and 8 together. The little horn of Daniel 7 comes out of the Roman Empire, while the little horn of chapter 8 comes from the Greek Empire. They are seen typologically together in Daniel 11:21–45. Thus Jesus revealed a future, blasphemous king who will arise during the Great Tribulation and desecrate the Temple by erecting an image of himself in it (cf. Rev. 13:15–18).

The book of Revelation completes the picture. The 10 toes of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s image in Daniel 2 and the 10 horns of the terrible beast in Daniel 7 relate to the 10 horns of the beast in Revelation 13:1–18 and 17:8–13. Revelation 17:12 indicates, along with Daniel, that these 10 kings all rule with the beast (the Antichrist) and/or a revived Roman Empire. This event has not yet happened in history.

Consequently, we are still in the Times of the Gentiles, and the Roman Empire has not yet finished its course. Just as the old Roman Empire was characterized by religious pluralism, military strength, and economic incentive, its end-times culmination will be a worldwide empire of the same character (Dan. 7:23). According to Daniel 7:7, this empire will already exist when the “little horn” takes it over.

It is not difficult to see that the world today appears headed gladly toward a politically, religiously pluralistic and economically globalized world. This will be the revived Roman Empire.

Pictured in Revelation 12––13, it is often compared with the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1–9) as a bastion of humanity’s hubris in uniting in rebellion against God’s rule. In its fallen state, even at its peak of unity, mankind can only offer a corrupt perversion of God’s intentions for the race created in His image. Thus this revived Roman Empire, in all its totalitarian might, will become Satan’s instrument to destroy all that is noble in man and will do nothing but enslave humanity to do his will.

At the same time, the Antichrist who will rule this evil empire personifies man’s rebellion against God. When God’s final bowl judgments rain down on Earth, instead of repenting, people will blaspheme the God of heaven (Rev. 16:9–11). In other words, the Antichrist is what sinful humanity will want in its insurrection against God.

King David described the world’s reaction to God’s establishing His Anointed as King over the earth: “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lᴏʀᴅ and against His Anointed” (Ps. 2:1–2; cf. Acts 4:23–31).

What is God’s response? He laughs and scoffs at them and tells them in anger to do homage to His Son (Ps. 2:4–6, 12). Thus all creation will one day acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:11).

All of human and satanic might are nothing in God’s sight (Isa. 40:12–17). During this rebellion, the saints are pictured as demonstrating their faith by caring for the Lord’s brothers and so are welcomed into the Kingdom and eternal life (Mt. 25:34–40).

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