By John F. Walvoord
The interpretation of the prophecy of a future ten-nation confederacy as found in four major passages of Scripture is a determinative issue in any system of prophetic interpretation. This is because the principles of interpretation applied to this prophecy are the key to the total prophetic outlook. Accordingly, the Scriptures related to this problem present one of the decisive interpretive questions facing any expositor.
At least four major Scripture passages make a contribution to this subject (Dan 2:31-35, 40-45; 7:7-8, 19-24 ; Rev 13:1-2; 17:3, 7, 12-16 ). These passages either directly or by implication prophesy a ten-kingdom confederation which will be an important aspect of the end-time political situation. The question of whether this has already been fufilled in the past or is subject to future fulfillment is an important issue in determining the Biblical prophetic program.
Principles of Interpretation
At the outset the expositor who attempts to interpret these portions of Scripture is confronted with the major hermeneutical problem of how to interpret prophecy. Two major points of view are reflected in the conclusions reached by various expositors. One view adopted by amillennial and postmillennial interpreters is the dual hermeneutics of Augustine, namely, that while Scripture as a whole should be interpreted normally or literally, prophecy is a special case which should be interpreted allegorically, symbolically, or in a nonliteral sense. Opposed to this is the normal interpretive principle adopted by the single hermeneuties of premillennialism, which is that prophecy should be interpreted much the same as other types of Scripture, namely, that the normal literal sense should be followed unless the context or the thought requiries a nonliteral or symbolic interpretation. The expositor must therefore weigh the respective merits of these two schools of thought in attempting to interpret the major Scriptures related to the ten-nation confederacy.
The Image of Daniel 2
The second chapter of Daniel reveals the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in which he saw a great image. The interpretation of this dream revealed to Daniel in a night vision constituted the first comprehensive revelation of Gentile prophecy. The head of gold according to Daniel’s interpretation represented Babylon and the Babylonian Empire headed by Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:31, 37-38). The breast and arms of the vision made of silver symbolized the next kingdom which later in Daniel is identified as Medo-Persia (Dan 2:32, 39; 8:1-20 ). The third empire represented by the lower part of the body and the thighs which were of brass is later identified as Greece (Dan 2:32, 39; 8:21 ). The fourth kingdom was portrayed as the legs of iron, and the feet and toes part of iron and part of pottery (Dan 2:33, 40-43). The fourth kingdom is not named in Daniel, but is pictured as continuing up to the time when God establishes a kingdom which shall never be destroyed (Dan 2:44). Normative interpretation accordingly would identify the fourth kingdom as the Roman Empire.
In the interpretation of the dream, the stone is seen smiting the image in the feet with the result that the image is totally destroyed, and the stone increases in size until it is a great mountain which fills the whole earth. This is obviously related to the divine consummation of human history.
The nonliteral interpretation of this portion of Scripture has usually recognized the first three empires much in the same fashion as the literal interpretation, namely, referring them to Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. Some few refer the fourth kingdom to a subdivision of the third and the two legs of the image as the two major divisions of the Seleucid Empire. Even the nonliteral interpretation, however, more generally has identified the fourth empire as Rome with the main difference in the interpretation of the stone. premillennial interpretation, the image and its corresponding prophetic fulfillment has already become historic down to the feet stage of the image. The two legs represent the divided aspect of the Roman Empire into its Eastern and Western divisions. The feet stage, including the implied ten toes, is yet future and is related to the period just before the second coming of Christ. This interpretation involves the thesis that the Roman Empire in some form or fashion will be revived and therefore the toes representing a ten-nation confederacy are yet to be fulfilled.
The Vision of Daniel 7:7-8
In the seventh chapter of Daniel a companion vision given to Daniel himself reveals four beasts symbolizing four great world empires. Although some expositors have resisted the correspondence of this chapter to chapter two , the similarities are such that anyone attempting to interpret this normally comes to the conclusion that this is another view of the same truth presented in chapter two of Daniel . Here again are the familiar four empires: the first represented as a lion corresponding to Babylon, the second as a bear corresponding to Medo-Persia, the third as a leopard with four wings on its back and four heads corresponding to Greece under Alexander, and the fourth empire as a terrible beast having ten horns. To this point the revelation coincides precisely with the empires portrayed in the image of Daniel 2. Here, however, an additional activity is described in the little horn which uproots three of the ten horns and apparently introduces a personage who will be prominent in the last days. According to the vision, the fourth beast is later destroyed by the Son of Man who comes from heaven. The dominion of the fourth beast is succeeded by a kingdom which has an everlasting dominion which comes from God (Dan 7:9-14).
The interpretation of the vision of Daniel 7 is more detailed than that of Daniel 2 and is found in Daniel 7:17-28. Here we learn specifically that the four beasts are four kings or kingdoms. Our attention is directed especially to the fourth beast and more particularly to the little horn. An important point in the interpretation is that the ten horns, apparently corresponding to the ten toes of the image of Daniel 2, are pictured as reigning simultaneously and as subdued by the little horn of Daniel 7:8. This is a frontal refutation of the postmillennial and amillennial concept that the ten kingdoms were successive kingdoms in the latter phase of the Roman Empire or, as some would have it, fulfilled in the empire of Seleucids. Instead, it is clear that the ten kingdoms are simultaneous as three of them are subdued by the little horn and the other seven apparently capitulate. The fourth kingdom under the domination of the little horn becomes a world empire described in the phrase: “Shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces” (Dan 7:23).
Any reasonably literal interpretation of this prophecy requires necessarily the expositor to take the position that this is yet future from the standpoint of the twentieth century. Nothing in history corresponds to a ten-nation confederacy subdued by another king which endures until it is succeeded by the kingdom of heaven. If this passage is allowed to speak as a genuine prophetic revelation, it necessarily requires a future ten-nation confederacy as a key to the political and international situation in the days just preceding the second coming of Christ and His kingdom.
The New Testament revelation afforded by the Apocalypse, coming as it does hundreds of years after Daniel’s prophecy, constitutes a confirmation as well as additional revelation of that which had been previously introduced by Daniel the prophet.
In Revelation 13:1-2 John “saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” The correspondence of this beast to that in Daniel 7 is obvious in that the beast has ten horns and ten crowns, speaking of political power and yet having seven heads. The meaning of the seven heads is not immediately clear but may be related to the deposition of three kingdoms by the little horn of Daniel 7:9. Another interpretation is that the seven heads represent seven successive rulers in the Roman Empire which are succeeded by a ten-nation confederacy which has ten simultaneous kings (Rev 17:10-13). From the standpoint of establishing a future ten-nation confederacy, the passage adds its weight to that previously revealed in Daniel, in that again there are ten horns and these rulers are under the domination of a single ruler described in Revelation 13:3-8.
Here even more clearly than in Daniel the prophecy relates to that which is future. The ruler who dominates the political scene is declared to have power given to him to continue forty and two months. This three and one-half year period may be identified with the future great tribulation of Daniel 12:1 and Matthew 24:21 which is in turn related to the prophecy of Daniel 9:27 as being the last three and one-half years of the 490 years of Daniel’s prophecy pictured in Daniel 9:24-27. More important is the fact that the forty-two months (Rev 13:5) culminate in the second coming of Christ when, according to Revelation 19, the beast of Revelation 13 is captured and cast into the lake of fire (Rev 19:20). This clearly identifies the time factor as that immediately preceding the second coming of Christ and therefore future, not a part of past Roman history.
The fourth major passage relating to the ten-nation confederacy is the description of the beast found in Revelation 17. According to Revelation 17:3 the wicked woman depicting the apostate church is astride the beast having seven heads and ten horns. Because of the precise description, there should be little question that this is the same beast which has seven heads and ten horns found in Revelation 13:1, and represents, therefore, the political government of that time. The position of the woman astride the beast describes her relationship, namely, one of dominance and yet supported by the political government.
The description of the ten horns as given in Revelation 17:12-16 confirms again that the ten horns are ten kings who are subservient to the one dictator who reigns over the entire government. Their blasphemous character is described and their ultimate destruction is assured. An amazing detail is added in Revelation 17:16, namely, that the ten horns, representing the kings, destroy the wicked woman in order that the dominion which she had religiously should be transferred to the political ruler. This, of course, is in line with intimations in Scripture that at the beginning of the final forty-two month period the ruler of the revived Roman Empire will take upon himself the role of God and demand that all the world worship him (Rev 13:8, 15). Again the identification of the horn and the beast and the times in which they are pictured as exercising their power relate them to a future period, namely, that just preceding the second coming of Christ to the earth.
On the basis of this investigation of four major passages which make a contribution to the prophetic foreview of the ten-nation confederacy, it has been presented that a normal, literal interpretation of the prophecies lead to the concept that there is yet coming a future ten-nation confederacy within the bounds of the ancient Roman Empire. The speculation as to which ten nations these may be is, of course, not answered in the Scriptures. Suffice it to say there were more than ten kingdoms within the ancient Roman Empire and this revival, identified as it is with the Roman prince of Daniel 9:26, may well include Rome itself and representative countries in Northern Africa, Western Asia, and Southern Europe. As the Scriptures make plain, the ten-nation confederacy is only the beginning, and the power of the ruler continues to extend until he reigns over every kindred, tongue, and nation (Rev 13:7). Hence, it may be concluded that a normative and literal interpretation of prophecy leads to the conclusion that the world is yet to see a revival of the ancient Roman Empire in its ten-nation confederacy form. In the light of the amazing unification of Europe under the Common Market and the pressures of a modern situation which make the survival of small, independent nations very difficult, such a move toward confederacy fits precisely into the temper of our modern international situation. The appropriateness of this prophecy to our present day is another indication that the church may be ending its earthly course and that end-time prophecy is about to be fulfilled.
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