Read Revelation 17 at Bible Gateway.
Previously: revelation 17, ten horns of the beast
The ten horns of the beast are ten kings who will arise out of the Roman beast, in any of its incarnations. They were not yet at the time John received the vision. As they give their power and authority to the beast, and make war with the Lamb, we will look for them to use the power of the state to grant power and authority to the office of the papacy of the Roman church, the eleventh little horn that grows up among them, and ends up displacing three of the first of them.
Constantine the Great (reigned 306-337 ad, born in the Roman province of Moesia west of the Danube River); he defeated six rival claimants to the title of Augustus under Diocletian’s dual – emperor system, and reunified the western and eastern Roman empire. He ended Christian persecution and banned crucifixion, so how does this detail fit, that he would make war against the Lamb? He called the Christian bishops to the Council of Nicea in 325 to settle doctrinal differences, and endorsed the Council’s findings as orthodox. It is in this Council’s decisions that polemics against the Jews, and punishment for celebrating “Jewish” festivals instead of the “Christian” holidays of Christmas, Easter, and various other saints’ days, was enshrined. For hundreds of years following this decision, the Roman clerics had to continually preach on the holiness of Sunday and Christmas worship, as resistance to them as retooled idolatry remained strong among the followers of the Lamb.
Although the “Donation” never occurred, Constantine did hand over the Lateran Palace to the bishop of Rome (311-14 ad), and begin the construction of Old Saint Peter’s Basilica (the “Constantinian Basilica”). Old St. Peter’s was begun between 326 and 330 and would have taken three decades to complete, long after the death of Constantine. Constantine’s legalization of Christianity, combined with the donation of these properties, gave the pope an unprecedented level of temporal power, for the first time creating an incentive for secular leaders to interfere with papal succession. — History of the Papacy, Wikipedia (emphasis added)
Theodoric the Great (reigned 488-526 ad, king of the Ostrogoths in Moesia), to get rid of him as a growing threat to his own throne, the Byzantine emperor, who ruled on the throne that Constantine established in Constantinople, sent him to attack Odoacer, the German king of the Romans who had brought about the fall of Rome in 476 ad. Theodoric took all his people with him, killed Odoacer and reigned as king of the Romans in his place. He established the Empire of the Ostrogoths in the former dominions of the western Roman empire (map).
Theodoric was an Arian Christian, in other words, he did not share the trinitarian doctrine established by the Council of Nicea, to which the bishop of Rome, and the people of Italy, generally subscribed. It was usual, in those days, for the conqueror to forcibly inflict his personal religious beliefs upon his conquered subjects, and persecute any that did not comply. But he did not persecute either the Roman Christians, the Roman church, or the bishop of Rome, and was not pleased when some Roman Christians renounced their faith to join his, in order, they thought, to gain his favor. He said that those who were not faithful to their God would never be faithful to their earthly master. Theodoric’s famous toleration of the Roman church is, I believe, how he used his power and authority as a horn to support its growth.
Justinian the Great (reigned 527-565 ad from Constantinople, emperor of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine empire), Justinian’s general waged a successful war to return to the Roman empire the lands in north Africa lost to the Vandals, and the lands of the former Western Roman empire lost to Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths (map). In his war with the Lamb, in 533 ad, Justinian wrote the following letter to the bishop of Rome (whose seat was to become the papacy), the sentiments of which he repeated in correspondence throughout his reign:
“Justinian: victor, pius, fortunate, ever Augustus, to John, the most holy Archbishop and patriarch of the noble city of Rome. Paying honor to the Apostolic See and to Your Holiness, as always has been and is our desire, and honoring your Blessedness as a father, we hasten to bring to the knowledge of Your Holiness all that pertains to the condition of the churches , since it has always been our great aim to safeguard the unity of your Apostolic See and the position of the holy churches of God which now prevails and abides securely without any disturbing trouble. Therefore we have been sedulous to subject and unite all the priests of the Orient throughout its whole extent to the See of Your Holiness. Whatever questions happen to be mooted at present , we have thought necessary to be brought to Your Holiness’ knowledge, however clear and unquestionable they might be, and though firmly held and taught by all the clergy in accordance with the doctrine of Your Apostolic See; for we do not suffer that anything which is moored to Your Holiness, however clear and unquestionable, pertaining to the state of the churches, should fail to be known to Your Holiness, as being the head of all the churches. For as we have said before, we are zealous for the increase of the honor and authority of your See in all respects.” — Decree of Justinian
This is not the first time the bishop of Rome claimed his was the supreme authority over all churches in the empire, but it was the first time that claim was backed up by the power and authority of the civil government and the sword. Furthermore, in accordance with these views, Justinian severely punished heretics, or all who did not hold to the findings of the four ecumenical church councils:
The civil rights of Jews were restricted and their religious privileges threatened. Justinian also interfered in the internal affairs of the synagogue, and he encouraged the Jews to use the Greek Septuagint in their synagogues in Constantinople [rather than the Hebrew Scriptures] . The Emperor had much trouble with the Samaritans, resisting conversion to Christianity and repeatedly in insurrection. He opposed them with rigorous edicts, but yet could not prevent hostilities towards Christians from taking place in Samaria toward the close of his reign. The consistency of Justinian’s policy meant that the Manicheans too suffered severe persecution, experiencing both exile and threat of capital punishment. At Constantinople, on one occasion, not a few Manicheans, after strict inquisition, were executed in the emperor’s very presence: some by burning, others by drowning. — Justinian I, Wikipedia
Interestingly enough, Justinian came from Dalmatia, a Roman province which stretched from the Danube River on the east, to the Adriatic Sea on the west (map). Constantine and Theodoric likewise came from Moesia, which also bounded the Danube River on the east, and is a neighboring province to Dalmatia. Is this merely an amazing coincidence?
Gregory the Great, (reigned as pope 590-604 ad), the little horn who deposed three horns before him. He is not one the ten, but the one who grew up among the ten. The office of the papacy began gaining temporal power in 311 under the first horn, Constantine; however, it was not strong enough to depose horns until the reign of Gregory the Great. Thus, another little horn “grew up” among the others, as Daniel saw. Even though Gregory reigned over the bishopric of Rome during the civil authority of the Byzantine emperor, it is from his reign that the Western Christian church can properly be called the Roman Catholic Church. Gregory reorganized the mass, wrote hymns (Gregorian chant is his invention), rendered many decisions which directed the course of the church and the office of the papacy for a millennium, and established bishops throughout the former western empire loyal to him as supreme authority in the church. He established the idea among the Roman church that the ecclesiastical power (in other words, his) was superior in authority to the civil power (in other words, kings and emperors, even the Byzantine emperor). Thus the three horns that were before him, which used their superior authority to confer authority, rights, and privileges the office that he inherited, were deposed before him.
In his war with the Lamb, one instance will suffice as an illustration:
When Britain was still a Roman province, it received the gospel of Christ before the end of the first century, and practiced the faith as delivered to them by the apostles. They rested on Sabbath, kept the resurrection of Jesus on the Feast of Firstfruits following Passover, and had much in common with the Jewish converts to Christianity that we read about in the New Testament. But shortly after the Roman legions were recalled from Britain to oppose the barbarian invasions of Germans and Huns in Gaul and Italy, Britain itself was invaded by Germans, the Angles and Saxons. The native Roman Britons were pushed into the mountainous regions of Wales and became the progenitors of the Welsh. The Welsh were Christian, but the English, as the Anglo- Saxons became known, were of course, pagan German. Gregory the Great sent his representative to the English to convert them to Christianity — the Christianity of the Roman church. His representative succeeded, and went with a force of English to the Welsh, to enfold their churches also within the oversight of the pope at Rome. The Welsh kindly refused, as they were unwilling to change their ancient practice. In the history books, the dispute is characterized as quibbles over the date of Easter. The Roman church observed the Lord’s resurrection near the spring equinox, as the Roman religion was ancient Babylonianism with the face of the Lamb painted over it, Easter being the fertility festival of the queen of heaven. “Easter” is in fact the name of the goddess in Anglo- Saxon. When the Welsh churches would not abandon the faith delivered to them by the apostles and submit to Rome, at the direction of the pope’s representative, the English slaughtered every bishop of the Welsh — 1000 men in all. Thus the Welsh were forcibly assimilated into the Roman beast.
The preaching of the true Catholic faith and the elimination of all deviations from it was a key element in Gregory’s worldview, and it constituted one of the major continuing policies of his pontificate. — Pope Gregory I, Wikipedia
So far we have identified the first three horns, and the little horn which grew up among the ten, which displaced the first three.
Continued in revelation 17, ten horns of the beast, part three