Chapter 9

What Comes After the Holy Roman Empire?

From the booklet The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy
By Brad Macdonald

“… I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand ….”—Isaiah 46:9-10

The history of the Holy Roman Empire—and the truth that it was created, led and exploited in each manifestation by the Catholic Church—is beyond dispute. It is proved true by recorded history, thorough scholarship, and museums and archaeological excavations full of relics and artifacts.

It is now time to consider more thoroughly what the Bible reveals about the Holy Roman Empire.

In Chapters 1 and 2, we considered the Apostle John’s dramatic vision described in Revelation 17. In particular, we concentrated on the woman, or church, of Revelation 17, who was “sit[ting] upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns” (verse 3).

This church was riding—she was guiding, empowering, leading—a “beast” that had seven heads and 10 horns.

The following verses show that under this woman’s inspiration and leadership, the beast performed many cruel and mighty works. This beast was the woman’s instrument of destruction, her main vehicle for expanding her power, her chosen weapon for conquering and subjugating great portions of the Earth.

The “beast” mentioned in Revelation 17 is the Holy Roman Empire, which, as we have seen, was comprised of seven consecutive resurrections, or seven governments—or “seven heads”!

Can you believe the Holy Roman Empire was prophesied? Will you?

The Bible contains a lot of prophecy, much more than people realize. One third of the Bible is prophecy, and 90 percent of that prophecy pertains to our time. But remember, the entire Bible was completed nearly 2,000 years ago. Some of the Bible’s earliest prophecies were written 1,400 years prior.

Think about that: God forecast the major events and trends unfolding in today’s world between roughly 1,900 and 3,400 years ago. For what purpose? That is simple: to prove He is real.

Fulfilled prophecy is the greatest proof we have of God’s existence!

But think further about the audience God is especially trying to reach with fulfilled prophecy. It can only be observed and accepted by people who have seen evidence of its fulfillment. And most prophecy pertains to our time today. Many biblical prophecies have only begun to be fulfilled in the last century, especially in the last three decades.

Human beings today, more than at any other moment in history, have seen Bible prophecies fulfilled. There has never been more evidence of fulfilled prophecy. And evidence of prophecies being fulfilled is piling up weekly.

The point is, mankind today has more proof than at any other time in human history of God’s existence!

Yet sadly, mankind’s belief in the true God is practically bankrupt. Belief in the Bible has dwindled epically. Concerning God and religion, humanity is more ignorant, more confused and more hostile than ever. Humanity has almost completely lost sight of God.

The Bible is literally full of prophecies serving the same function as the Holy Roman Empire. These prophecies are clear, vivid and detailed. And they were written millennia before they were due to be fulfilled. Moreover, they exist to prove to you—right now—that God exists, that He reigns supreme, that the Bible is His Word, and that He has a plan for mankind.

Bible prophecy is truly one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. It is proof of God’s love for mankind, and for you.

The Image of Daniel 2

Before we study further into specific prophecies about the Holy Roman Empire, we must put human history into broader prophetic context.

Daniel 2 is the key to unlocking world history. As Gerald Flurry writes in Daniel Unlocks Revelation, “The Daniel 2 image gives an overview of history and prophecy like nothing else in the Bible. It is the main tool God uses to unlock the book of Revelation!”

In Daniel 2 we read about a detailed and riveting dream King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had in the seventh century b.c. In it, he saw a great image, or statue.

Verses 32-33 show that the statue Nebuchadnezzar saw was made of four distinct materials: “This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.”

This image was standing tall and menacing, when suddenly, a stone from outer space came hurtling down and collided with it, annihilating the image and grinding it to dust. Then this stone became a great mountain that covered the whole planet (verses 34-35).

King Nebuchadnezzar was confused and disturbed. He called in his magicians and soothsayers, and demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed and then give its interpretation. The magicians had no idea what Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was about, let alone what it might have meant.

Residing in Babylon at the time was a Jew named Daniel, a young prophet with the God-given talent to interpret dreams. Through Daniel, God explained to King Nebuchadnezzar that his dream was actually a prophecy of future world events.

“Thou, O king,” Daniel began, “art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. … Thou art this head of gold” (verses 37-38). How clear: King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian-Chaldean Empire, which we can read about in history books, was the head of gold.

Daniel continued: “And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken” (verses 39-42).

Daniel was prophesying the succession of four world-ruling empires. The first, symbolized by the head of gold, was Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian-Chaldean Empire of the seventh century b.c. The second, symbolized by the chest and arms of silver, was the Medo-Persian Empire, which lasted from the sixth century to the mid-fourth century b.c. The third, symbolized by the belly of bronze, was the Greek Empire, which emerged in the fourth century b.c. The fourth, symbolized by two legs of iron—picturing two distinct regions, east and west—was the Roman Empire, which began in 31 b.c.

Now, check your history. You will find that the succession of these empires is recognized and chronicled in detail in history books the world over. Of course, other civilizations and peoples, many of them influential and impressive, existed concurrently, but these four were the dominant civilizations of their time.

What is amazing is that you can prove the fulfillment of this biblical prophecy by checking the contents page of most Western civilization textbooks!

Daniel’s Beasts

The four successive world-ruling empires identified in Daniel 2 are also identified in Daniel 7. But here God uses different symbolism. In Daniel 7 the four empires are pictured by “four great beasts.” The first, the Babylonian-Chaldean Empire, is “like a lion, and had eagle’s wings” (verse 4). The second, the Medo-Persian Empire, is typed by a bear (verse 5). In verse 6 the Greek Empire is symbolized by a leopard with four wings, depicting a kingdom with terrific speed and agility. (Remember how fast Alexander the Great blazed across Asia Minor and the Mideast?)

Now notice how Daniel 7 describes the fourth beast. It is totally unique. Verse 7 says, “[B]ehold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.”

The beast depicting the terrifying Roman Empire isn’t symbolized by a known animal, like a lion, bear or leopard—but by a unique-looking beast, unlike any normal animal. Notice too, this beast has 10 horns. These horns represent 10 successive administrations, or resurrections, of the Roman Empire.

Next we come to a pivotal truth.

In verse 8, Daniel continues describing the fourth 10-horned beast that symbolizes the Roman Empire. “I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.” Clearly this “little horn” is separate from the 10.

But notice: This powerful little horn comes on the scene after the first three horns, or administrations. In fact, this “little horn,” this administration, plucks up—it overcomes and destroys—the first three horns. In verse 20, Daniel explains this prophecy: “And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.”

The Hebrew word translated “stout” means “captain, chief, great, lord, master” (Strong’s Concordance). This “little horn” is clearly a powerful and commanding institution. And it begins ruling over the last seven horns after it destroys the first three.

The identity of this “little horn” is obvious: It is the Roman Catholic Church, which began leading the Holy Roman Empire after the demise of the three Goth tribes that dominated Rome in the fifth century.

“God reveals so much in this one scripture,” Mr. Flurry writes. “This verse depicts the 10 horns that grow out of the fourth beast—the Roman Empire. It depicts a ‘little horn’—a great false church—coming on the scene after three horns are plucked up. The church directed the violent uprooting of the barbarians. The three horns picture three governments (the Heruli, the Vandals and the Ostrogoths) that came and went, and then suddenly the whole configuration changed from that point forward: The great church guided every succeeding resurrection of this Roman Empire, in an unprecedented church-state relationship” (Daniel Unlocks Revelation). If you are interested in really proving this prophecy and understanding it deeply, request and read this free booklet.

Notice what Mr. Flurry writes next: “God revealed to Herbert W. Armstrong that this verse was the key to European history. So European history is tied to Daniel’s image. The last seven horns comprise a church-state relationship, which began in a.d. 554—led by Justinian. Once you understand that, it is much easier to see where it is. Europe was ruled by a church-state relationship and is unique in this way. That is a super-critical key to understanding its past. This combine is called the Holy Roman Empire. It has produced the most destructive church-state relationship in human history!” (emphasis added).

The message of Daniel 7:8 must underpin our study of European history, and specifically the history of the Holy Roman Empire. It is a counterpart to Revelation 17, though it was written almost 600 years before the book of Revelation.

Read the remainder of Daniel 7: After rising up to destroy the first three horns, this “little horn” stays around to guide and influence the last seven horns, which represent seven resurrections of the Roman Empire. These seven resurrections—each under the spiritual and moral influence of the “little horn”—comprise the seven resurrections of the Holy Roman Empire.

Revelation 13

About 600 years after God inspired the Prophet Daniel to write these prophecies, He added to them through the Apostle John, who wrote the book of Revelation.

In Revelation 13, the Apostle John discusses two distinct beasts. The first, described in verses 1 to 10, has features similar to but slightly different from the four distinct beasts described in Daniel 7, But it depicts the same four world-ruling empires, including the 10 horns of the Roman Empire, described in Daniel 7.

Verses 11 to 18 describe the second beast of Revelation 13. Verse 11 says, “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.” What powerful symbolism. This beast appears harmless and enticing, like a lamb. But when it speaks, it is terrifying and dangerous, like a dragon. The institution represented by this beast looks peaceful and altruistic, but it is vicious and cruel.

A dragon in biblical symbolism represents Satan the devil (e.g. Revelation 12). This beast is Satan’s creation. It is his primary instrument for deceiving mankind and seeking to destroy the true followers of God.

What does this second beast of Revelation 13 represent? As Herbert Armstrong explained in his booklet Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast? “This second beast of Revelation 13 is also pictured in Revelation 17 as the harlot woman who rode the beast. This fallen woman, or church, is different from all other churches in one respect. She is organized as a civil government, as well as an ecclesiastical church. Nations of the world send ambassadors to her, the same as they do the capitals of other nations.”

The second beast of Revelation 13 dominates the world (verses 12-18). It violently and cruelly forces humans into submission and worship. It seeks to extinguish its opponents. It is inspired and fueled by Satan and his demons, who infuse it with the power to do “great wonders” and many “miracles.”

Revelation 17: the All-important Chapter

To understand the specifics of the Holy Roman Empire, Revelation 17 is the key chapter. The Holy Roman Empire is its theme. It is different from Daniel 2 and 7 and Revelation 13 as it discusses only the last seven resurrections of the Roman Empire. Once again, just as He did in Daniel 2 and 7 and Revelation 13, God reveals the truth about the Holy Roman Empire by causing the Apostle John to see a vivid and dramatic beast.

Before God revealed this image, He sent an angel who explained to John what he was about to see. “… Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication” (Revelation 17:1‑2). This image was about a great false religion that deceived the world—and, by spiritual deception, ruled kings, or governments.

Next, read for yourself what John saw in vision: “[A]nd I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns” (verse 3). Notice, there are two distinct parts to this image: a “woman,” or church—and a “scarlet coloured beast” with seven heads and 10 horns, upon which the woman rode.

We now know the identities of both the woman and the beast. “The seven heads symbolize the seven dynasties or historic peaks of the Holy Roman Empire,” wrote Mr. Armstrong in the January 1979 Plain Truth. “The 10 horns are 10 kings or nations comprising this empire at the time of its seventh stage.” Verse 9 explains further what these seven heads represent: “… The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.” In the Bible, a mountain is a symbol for a government.

Each “head” of this Revelation 17 beast represents a distinct administration, or government!

As we have proved in this book, together these seven successive governments comprise the beast of Revelation 17. The first head, or government, was Emperor Justinian and the Imperial Restoration of a.d. 554; the second, Emperor Charlemagne and the Frankish Empire of a.d. 774; the third, Otto the Great and the Holy Roman Empire in 962; the fourth, the Habsburg dynasty of the early 16th century; the fifth, Napoleon’s kingdom in the early 19th century; the sixth, the German-Italian axis ultimately responsible for World War ii.

The seventh head, or government, which is comprised of 10 horns, or 10 kings, is now coalescing in Europe!

But remember what the most distinguishing and important feature of the Revelation 17 beast is! Read it again in verses 3-5: “… I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast …. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.”

Never forget that image, for it is the key that unlocks the history of Europe and future world events!

This seven-headed beast is inspired, guided and exploited by a great false religion. This false religion is the woman of Revelation 17—she is responsible for guiding each of the seven governments of the Holy Roman Empire. More than any other secular power or individual, this woman, who is under the influence of Satan the devil—the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4)—is responsible for the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Holy Roman Empire.

Also, we cannot forget the reason this woman-beast alliance exists. Revelation 17:6 says, “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus ….” In Daniel 7:25 this religion is symbolized by a “little horn” that shall “speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High ….”

This is a vital truth: Satan the devil raised up the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire as his primary weapon for destroying the true saints of God! Think about that. How can Catholicism be God’s true religion when the Bible says the Catholic Church exists to oppose and destroy the true Church?

If you want to find God’s true Church, look for a Church that is being persecuted by the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire! Look for the Church that is exposing the truth about the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire.

The Fifth Kingdom?

Before we finish, we must consider a vital component—in fact, the most important—of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. This part of the dream is often overlooked or ignored, but it is by far the most exciting. One can be intrigued and excited by the symbolism of the image, by the head of gold and the other three materials—and the fact that these four parts explain world history—and fail to think much about this image’s ultimate fate.

Read it for yourself: “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. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:34-35).

There is far greater depth in those two scriptures than most people know.

These two verses discuss the entire gospel message! They show us that God has a plan for mankind!

What does the “stone” that is “cut out without hands” represent? The Bible reveals that it is Jesus Christ!

Ephesians 2:20 says that God’s Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, “Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” In 1 Corinthians 10:4 Christ is identified as “that spiritual Rock.”

This stone flying in from heaven and destroying the image pictures the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, this stone—after smashing the image and grinding it so thoroughly that the dust of iron, clay, brass, silver and gold blow away and vanish—transforms into a “great mountain” that “filled the whole earth.” Daniel explains this: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44).

When Jesus returns, after demolishing the cruel, savage kingdoms of man, He will establish on Earth the eternal Kingdom of God!

Daniel 7 describes the same course of events. After describing the four beasts—each corresponding to the four parts of the statue in Daniel 2—the prophet explains what happens after the time allotted to the Roman Empire expires. “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (Daniel 7:27).

The final human kingdom—the seventh resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire—will be replaced by the Kingdom of God.

This eternal kingdom will be ruled by Jesus Christ and the “saints of the most High.” In addition to Christ, there will be other God beings sitting on the throne with Christ establishing and reigning over the everlasting Kingdom of God! (Revelation 3:21; 20:4-6).

This is the very gospel message that Christ preached! (Mark 1:14-15).

The same people that the Holy Roman Empire worked so hard to destroy will be ruling in the Kingdom of God. Their victory is prophesied!

Can you begin to fathom what God is teaching us here?

Isn’t it marvelous how Bible prophecy and world history—how the Daniel 2 image and the beasts of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 and 17—how the history of the Holy Roman Empire and the shocking truth about the Roman Catholic Church—actually prove the existence of God and reveal the stunning, incredibly positive and hopeful truth about the coming Kingdom of God?

When you truly understand this, world events and Bible prophecy come alive. Why? Because they reveal that there is a God in heaven and the dawning of a new future for mankind.

Think seriously about this: Bible prophecy and world history—even the inglorious and frightening history and prophecy about the Holy Roman Empire—are fundamentally a hope-filled, inspiring message about the gospel of God.

More than any other, this is the great lesson we must take from the Holy Roman Empire: The history of this empire proves God’s existence, it proves the Bible is true and accurate, and it proves that the establishment on this Earth of the Kingdom of God is just ahead.

There is no more exciting, positive message than that!

Sidebar: The Deadly ‘Wound’

In Revelation 13, the Apostle John describes a beast that looks very similar to the fourth beast of Daniel 7. Both beasts represent the fourth world-ruling empire, the Roman Empire of 31 b.c. to a.d. 476. As John depicts it, this beast includes the most powerful characteristics of all the beasts that preceded it. It had seven heads, but the only head existing at the time John saw it was that of the fourth beast of Daniel, containing the seventh head, and also the 10 horns.

Revelation 13:3 describes “one of his heads as it were wounded to death.” The head that was wounded was the one picturing the Roman Empire, which also had 10 horns. These horns, as Daniel makes clear, represent 10 successive governments of the Roman Empire that were to continue until the establishment of the Kingdom of God at Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.

What was the “wound” John described? This deadly wound was inflicted on the Roman Empire when, in its last decaying stages, the barbarians overran the city of Rome, temporarily ending its government in a.d. 476. At that moment, for the first time since its creation, the Roman Empire was not ruled by a Roman. The empire was wounded and effectively dead!

Study the history. The Roman Empire in northern Africa was overrun by the Vandals, who sacked Rome in 455. Then in 476, Odoacer set up his government at Rome, called the Heruli. But this regime did not heal the deadly wound, for it was not a Roman government but one of foreign barbarians. Then came the kingdom of the Ostrogoths, from 493 to 554—another foreign people that ruled in the territory. They were subsequently driven out of Italy, and they disappeared.

These three kingdoms were the first three horns, or governments. These three kingdoms sweeping into the Roman territory filled the period known in history as the “transition age” (see Ancient History, by Philip Van Ness Myers). It was a transition between the wound and the healing.

But notice: Revelation 13:3 says the wound would be “healed” and the Roman Empire would continue.

In Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 7, we see another “little horn” arise and pluck up the first three horns, which symbolized those three barbarian tribes that ruled Rome (verse 8). This left seven horns to come. Of the little horn, Daniel 7 says his “look was more stout than his fellows” (verse 20). The Hebrew word for “stout” means “captain, chief, great, lord, master” (Strong’s Concordance).

This horn represents the Catholic Church, which completely dominated all the horns to follow.

When was the “wound” healed? It was when the barbarian tribes were ousted from Rome. This occurred in a.d. 554, when “Justinian, emperor of the East, from Constantinople, set up his government through an Imperial Legate at Ravenna, Italy, and brought about what is known as the ‘Imperial Restoration’ of the empire” (Herbert W. Armstrong, Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast?) (see Chapter 2).

Sidebar: The 73rd Emperor of the Fourth World Empire

On that famous Christmas in a.d. 800, the pope crowned Charlemagne “73rd emperor of the fourth world empire.” Why the fourth empire? The idea did not originate with this pope. Many scholars and theologians knew at the time that the Roman Empire was the fourth world-ruling kingdom. Many even identified this fourth kingdom with the one the Prophet Daniel spoke of. In fact, centuries before, while the old Roman Empire still existed, most Jews and Christians thought it would be the world’s last kingdom because of Daniel’s prophecy.

That is why Europeans and Catholics kept trying to revive the empire: The Bible said there would only be four empires.

Though many scholars knew the Roman Empire was prophesied to be the final world empire, beyond that, they tragically misinterpreted Bible prophecies. That is what led to so much violence and bloodshed during the Middle Ages.

People falsely assumed that the antichrist would emerge on the world scene once the Roman Empire was extinguished. What the Bible actually says is that after the fourth empire passes from the scene, God’s Kingdom will be set up (Daniel 2:44).

This also was misinterpreted because people during the Middle Ages assumed the Holy Roman Empire was God’s Kingdom on Earth! That elevated their laws and aspirations for world rule above God’s. Thus, the groundwork for the tragedy of the Middle Ages was laid—not upon a holy empire, but upon Satan-inspired, gross misinterpretations of God’s Word.

The Germans, more than any other people, felt it their divine duty to preserve this “Holy” Roman Empire so that “antichrist” might not appear. So time and again, when the empire sank into decay, it would somehow muster enough strength to again raise itself—usually behind one powerful leader, oftentimes German, supported by a powerful religious head in Rome.

What the people of these empires also failed to understand was that these same Roman resurrections were themselves prophesied in the Bible!

Scripture does foretell of four, and only four, world-ruling empires. But that final empire, after it was crushed in a.d. 476, was prophesied to rise seven more times, which would be in conjunction with the papal authority in Rome as the resurrected “Holy Roman Empire.” It was that same Roman Empire, under new names and titles, that again rose up during the 20th century under German dominance, and that awaits one last resurrection, again prodded by a strong European hand, probably German.