The United States in the Light of Prophecy



WE now enter upon a more particular examination of the second symbol of Revelation 13, with a view to determine with greater certainty its application. What is said respecting this symbol, the beast with two horns like a lamb, is not an isolated and independent prophecy, but is connected with what precedes; and the symbol itself is but one of a series. It is proper therefore to briefly examine the preceding symbols, since if we are able to make a satisfactory application of them, it will guide us in the interpretation of this. USLP 20.1

The line of prophecy of which this forms a part commences with Revelation 12. The book of Revelation is evidently not a consecutive prophecy of events to transpire from the beginning to the close of the gospel dispensation, but is composed of a series of prophetic lines, each taking up its own class of events, and tracing them through from the days of the prophet to the end of time. And when one line of prophecy is completed, another is taken up. That a new series of prophetic events is introduced in Revelation 12, is evident; since in the preceding chapter a line of prophecy is completed, bringing us down to the great day of God’s wrath, the judgment of the dead, and the eternal reward of those that fear God and revere his name. No line of prophecy can go farther; and any events to transpire in probation, subsequently mentioned, must of course belong to a new series. USLP 20.2

Commencing, then, with chapter 12, how far does this line of prophecy extend? The first symbol introduced, which can be applied to an earthly government, is the great red dragon. The second is the beast of Revelation 13, which, having the body of a leopard, we shall call, for brevity’s sake, the leopard beast. To this beast the dragon gives his seat, power, and great authority. This beast, then, is connected with the dragon, and belongs to this line of prophecy. The third symbol is the two-horned beast of Revelation 13. This beast exercises certain power in the presence of the leopard beast, and causes the earth and them that dwell therein to worship him. This beast, therefore, is connected with the leopard beast, and hence belongs to the same line of prophecy. No conclusion is reached in chapter 13, and hence the prophecy is not there completed. Going forward into chapter 14, we find a company brought to view who are redeemed from among men (which can mean nothing else than translation from among the living at the second coming of Christ); and they sing a song before the throne which none but themselves can learn. In chapter 15, we have a company presented before us who have gotten the victory over the beast, his image, the mark, and the number of his name — the very things brought to view in the concluding portion of Revelation 13. This company also sing a song, even the song of Moses and the Lamb; and they sing it while standing upon the sea of glass, as stated in verse 2. Turning to chapter 4:6, we learn that this sea of glass is “before the throne.” The conclusion, therefore, follows that those who sing before the throne, in chapter 14, are identical with those who sing on the sea of glass (before the throne), in chapter 15, inasmuch as they stand in the same place, and the song they both sing is the first glad song of actual redemption. But the declarations found in chapter 15 show that the company introduced in the opening of chapter 14 have been in direct conflict with the powers brought to view in the closing verses of chapter 13, and have gotten the victory over them. Being thus connected with those powers, they form a part of the same line of prophecy. But here this line of prophecy must end; for this company is spoken of as redeemed; and no line of prophecy, as already noticed, can go beyond the eternal state. USLP 21.1

The line of prophecy in which the two-horned beast stands, is, therefore, one which is very clearly defined; it commences with chapter 12, and ends with verse 5 of chapter 14. The student of prophecy finds it one of vast importance; the humble child of God, one of transcendent interest. It begins with the church, and ends with the church — the church, at first in humility, trial, and distress; at last, in victory, exaltation, and glory. This is the one object which ever appears the same in all the scenes here described, and whose history is the leading theme of the prophecy, from first to last. Trampled under the feet of the three colossal persecuting powers here brought to view, the followers of Christ for long ages bow their heads to the pitiless storm of oppression and persecution; but the end repays them all; for John beholds them at last, the storms all over, their conflicts all ended, waving palm-branches of victory, and striking on golden harps a song of ever-lasting triumph within the precincts of the heavenly land. USLP 22.1

We turn then to the inquiry, What power is designated by the great red dragon of chapter 12? The chapter first speaks of a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. A woman is the symbol of the church; a lewd woman representing a corrupt or apostate church, as in Ezekiel 23:2-4, etc., which refers to the Jewish church in a state of backsliding, and in Revelation 17:3-6, 15, 18, which refers to the apostate Romish church; and a virtuous woman representing the true church, as in the verse under consideration. At what period in her history could the church be properly represented as here described? Ans. At the opening of the gospel dispensation, and at no other time; for then the glory of this dispensation, like the light of the sun, had just risen upon her; the former dispensation, which, like the moon, shone with a borrowed light, had just passed and lay beneath her feet. And twelve inspired apostles, like a crown of twelve stars, graced the first organization of the gospel church. To this period these representations can apply, but to no other. The prophet antedates this period a little by referring to the time when the church with longing expectation was awaiting the advent into this world of the glorious Redeemer. USLP 23.1

A man child here represented as the offspring of this woman, appears upon the stage. This child was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and was caught up to God and his throne. Verse 5. These declarations are true of our Lord Jesus Christ, but of no one else. See Psalm 2:7-9; Ephesians 1:20, 21; Hebrews 8:1; Revelation 3:21. There is therefore no mistaking the time when the scenes here described took place. We mention these facts for the purpose of identifying the power symbolized by the dragon; for the dragon stood before the woman, to devour her child as soon as it should be born. Who attempted the destruction of our Lord when he appeared as a babe in Bethlehem? Herod. And who was Herod? A Roman governor. Rome, which then ruled over all the earth, Luke 2:1, was the responsible party in this transaction. Rome was the only power which at this time could be symbolized in prophecy, as its dominion was universal. It is not without good reason, therefore, that Pagan Rome is considered among Protestant commentators to be the power indicated by the great red dragon. And it may be a fact worth mentioning that during the second, third, fourth, and fifth centuries of the Christian era, next to the eagle, the dragon was the principal standard of the Roman legions; and that dragon was painted red. USLP 24.1

There is but one objection we need pause to answer before passing to the next symbol. Is not the dragon plainly called in verse 9, the devil, and Satan? How then can it be applied to Pagan Rome? That the term dragon is primarily applied to the devil, there seems to be no doubt; but that it should be applied also to some of his chief agents, would seem to be appropriate and unobjectionable. Now Rome being at this time pagan, and the supreme empire of the world, was the great, if not almost the sole, agent in the hands of the devil for carrying out his purposes. Hence the application of that term to the Roman power. USLP 25.1

The next symbol to engage our attention is the leopard beast of chapter 13, to which the dragon gives his seat, his power, and great authority. It would be sufficient on this point to show to what power the dragon, Pagan Rome, transferred its seat and gave its power. The seat of any government is certainly its capital city. The city of Rome was the dragon’s seat. But in A.D. 330, Constantine transferred the seat of empire from Rome to Constantinople; and Rome was given up to what? To decay, desolation, and ruin? No; but to become far more celebrated than it had ever before been, not as the seat of pagan emperors, but as the city of St. Peter’s successors, the seat of a spiritual hierarchy which was not only to become more powerful than any secular prince, but through the magic of its fatal sorcery was to exercise dominion over the kings of the earth. Thus was Rome given to the papacy; and the decree of Justinian, issued in 533, and carried into effect in 538, constituting the pope the head of all the churches and the corrector of heretics, was the investing of the papacy with that power and authority which the prophet foresaw. USLP 25.2

It is very evident, therefore, that this leopard beast is a symbol of the papacy. But there are other considerations which prove this. This beast has the body of a leopard, the mouth of a lion, and the feet of a bear, which shows it to be some power which succeeded those three beasts of Daniel’s prophecy, and retained some of the characteristics of them all; and that was Rome. But this is not the first, or pagan form of the Roman government; for that is represented by the dragon; and this is the form which succeeded that, which was the papal. USLP 26.1

But what most clearly shows that this beast represents the papacy, is its identity with the little horn of the fourth beast of Daniel 7, which all Protestants agree in applying to the papal power. USLP 26.2

1. Their chronology. The little horn arises after the great and terrible beast, which represents Rome in its first or pagan form, is fully developed even to the existence of the ten horns, or the division of the Roman empire into ten parts. Daniel 7:24. The leopard beast succeeds the dragon which also represents Rome in its pagan form. These powers appear therefore upon the stage of action at the same time. USLP 27.1

2. Their location. The little horn plucked up three horns to make way for itself. The last of these, the Gothic horn, was plucked up when the Goths were driven from Rome in 538, and the city was left in the hands of the little horn, which has ever since held it as the seat of its power. To the leopard beast also, the dragon gave its seat, the city of Rome. They therefore occupy the same location. USLP 27.2

3. Their character. The little horn is a blasphemous power; for it speaks great words against the Most High. Daniel 7:25. The leopard beast also is a blasphemous power; for it bears upon its head the name of blasphemy; it has a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and he opens his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in Heaven. Revelation 13:1, 5, 6. USLP 27.3

4. Their work. The little horn by a long and heartless course of oppression against the saints of the Most High, wears them out; and they are given into his hand. Daniel 7:25. He makes war against them, and prevails. Verse 21. The leopard beast also makes war upon the saints, and overcomes them. Revelation 13:7. USLP 27.4

5. The time of their continuance. Power was given to the little horn to continue a “time and times, and the dividing of time.” Daniel 7:25. A time in Scripture phraseology is one year. Daniel 4:25. (The “seven times” of Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation, Josephus informs us, were seven years.) Times, that is two times, the least that can be expressed by the plural, would be two years more; and the dividing of time, or half a time, half a year; making in all, three years and a half. To the leopard beast power was also given to continue forty-two months, which at twelve months to the year, give us again just three years and a half. And this being prophetic time, a day for a year (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6), and there being according to Scripture reckoning thirty days to a month, or three hundred and sixty days to a year (Genesis 7:11, 24; 8:4), we have in each case twelve hundred and sixty years, for the continuance of the little horn and the leopard beast. USLP 28.1

6. Their overthrow. At the end of the time, times and a half, the dominion of the little horn was to be taken away. Daniel 7:26. At the end of the forty-two months, the same length of time, the leopard beast was also to be slain, politically, with the sword, and go into captivity. Revelation 13:3, 10. USLP 28.2

These are points which prove not merely similarity, but identity. For whenever two symbols, as in this instance, represent powers that come upon the stage of action at the same time, occupy the same territory, maintain the same character, do the same work, continue the same length of time, and meet the same fate, those two symbols must represent one and the same power. And in all these particulars there is, as we have seen, the most exact co-incidence between the little horn of the fourth beast of Daniel 7, and the leopard beast of Revelation 13; and all are fulfilled by one power, and that is the papacy. The papacy succeeded to the pagan form of the Roman empire. It has, ever since it was first established, occupied the seat of the dragon, the city of Rome, building for itself such a sanctuary, St. Peter’s, as the world nowhere else beholds. It is a blasphemous power, speaking the most presumptuous words it is possible for mortal lips to utter against the Most High. It has worn out the saints, the Religious Encyclopedia estimating that the lives of fifty millions of Christians have been quenched in blood by its merciless implements of torture. It has continued a time, times and a half, or forty-two months, or twelve hundred and sixty years. Commencing in 538, when the decree of Justinian in behalf of papal supremacy was first made effectual by the overthrow of the Goths, the papacy enjoyed a period of uninterrupted supremacy for just twelve hundred and sixty years, when its power was temporarily overthrown, and its influence permanently crippled, by the French in 1798. USLP 29.1

Can any one doubt that the papacy is the power in question, and that the interpretation of this symbol brings us down within seventy-six years of our own time? We regard the exposition of the prophecy, thus far, as clear beyond the possibility of refutation; and if this is so, our future field of inquiry lies within a very narrow compass, as we shall presently see. USLP 30.1