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The fourth kingdom (Rome) also finally had to submit to Jesus Christ, as the other three did earlier. It is described in Daniel 7:7,
7 After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong, and it had large IRON teeth. It devoured and crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.
This is the equivalent of the legs of iron in Daniel 2:33, which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream of the great image.
Rome took over Judea in 63 B.C. The story is told by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews, XIV, iv. The Roman general Pompey took Jerusalem by force, and Josephus tells us, "now we lost our liberty, and became subject to the Romans."
And so Jerusalem passed into the hands of the fourth kingdom prophesied by Daniel. The people, however, had already experienced a taste of freedom for a full century, so they were not inclined to accept Roman rule as a part of the divine plan. It seems that their earlier victory over Antiochus had instilled in their minds the idea that their time of captivity was fully accomplished. Either they thought that the iron kingdom was fulfilled somehow by Antiochus, or (more likely) they simply forgot or ignored the writings of Daniel.
Daniel's prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (of years) dated Jesus' ministry and crucifixion, as I wrote in my book by that title. The works of Jesus were reported to Tiberius Caesar by his intelligence service. Tertullian, the (Christian) Roman lawyer, about 200 A.D., wrote that Tiberius had proposed to declare Jesus Christ to be a god:
"Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ's divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians."
In Roman law, it was the senate that was supposed to introduce such legislation. They rejected Tiberius' proposal only because they thought the emperor had overstepped his authority. Eusebius explains this further:
"He [Pilate] gave an account also of other wonders, which he had learned of him, and how, after his [Jesus'] death, he was now believed by many to be a god. They say that Tiberius referred the matter to the senate, but that they rejected it, ostensibly because they had not first examined into the matter (for an ancient law prevailed that no one should be made a god by the Romans, except by a vote and decree of the senate). . . . But although the senate of the Romans rejected the proposition made in regard to our Saviour, Tiberius still retained the opinion which he had held at first, and contrived no hostile measures against Christ."
I find it interesting that, if it were not for the fact that Christ had come to be rejected and to die on the cross, the Romans may well have accepted Christ as King at that time. But because of the divine plan, this was not meant to happen in those days.
It was not until the British prince Constantine took Rome that Christianity was even legalized. This was accomplished first by the Edict of Toleration in 311, which was enforced in the territory that Constantine controlled, and later by the Edict of Milan in 313, signed by both Constantine and Licinius, his co-ruler. This occurred 40 Sabbath years ("weeks") from Jesus' crucifixion (33-313 A.D.)
In 381, the emperor Theodosius outlawed sacrifice itself, which essentially outlawed both pagan and Jewish worship. Then in 391 the same emperor officially made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire.
Thus, the iron-toothed kingdom was gradually transformed from pagan to Christian. Certainly, its "Christianity" had many problems with carnal behavior, and many disagreed with some of its doctrines. Nonetheless, the legs of iron were forced to bend their knees to Jesus Christ.
When Theodosius died, the iron kingdom was divided between his two sons. Arcadius became the emperor of the Eastern Empire centered in Constantinople, and his brother Honorius became the emperor of the Western Empire centered in Rome. Here is where the legs of iron became distinct. The Western Empire fell in 476, while the Eastern Empire lasted until 1453.
Meanwhile, Rome's "little horn" arose during the disintegration of the Western Roman Empire after 476 A.D., when it filled the power vacuum and provided some stability in the time of chaos. Daniel 7:8 says,
8 While I was contemplating the [ten] horns [of Rome], behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering great boasts.
I explained the ten horns in my FFI #213 (April 2006). There were ten nations or ethnic groups in Europe represented by these ten "horns." Whereas Daniel gives us a simple picture, the book of Revelation shows that it is much more complex when we look at the details of the prophecy. Our present concern, though, is the "little horn," which overthrows three of the other horns and wages war against the saints.
The main similarity between the little Syrian "horn" and the little Roman "horn" is that both persecute or make war against the "saints." Antiochus made war on the Judeans and the temple in Jerusalem; the Roman Church made war on any saints who did not agree with or submit to the Roman bishop. Daniel 7:25 describes this "little horn" of Rome, saying,
25 And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and a half a time.
The Eastern emperor, Justinian, made alterations in the law in 529 A.D. when he changed the entire law of the empire. His new laws are called the Justinian Codex. They were based upon Orthodox Christian law. These were revised in 534.
These dates also provide us with the beginning points for the "time, times, and a half a time." A time is 360 days in short-term prophecy, or 360 years in long-term prophecy. In this case, we are dealing with long-term prophecy of a "time" (360 years), plus "times" (720 years), plus "a half a time" (180 years). The total is 1,260 years, extending from 529-1789.
In 1789 God began to bring judgment upon the Roman Church through the French Revolution that began at that time. On a more positive note, 1789 was also the year that the American Constitution was framed, and the new Christian Republic became "official," based not upon the Justinian law of Europe, but upon Scripture (to the best of their knowledge).
This new nation provided the most important "safe haven" yet for the saints of God who desired freedom of conscience. At the same time, however, France was undergoing great upheavals. France was often called "the firstborn of the (Roman) Church," and the revolution seemed to be a fatal blow to the Church. In 1798 the Pope in Rome was actually taken captive and died in a dungeon. Never in its history was the Roman Church in such grave danger of utter destruction.
But Rev. 13:3 prophesied that its fatal wound would be healed.