The Roman Empire is the last kingdom in Daniel's prophecy. The impressive statue also features feet with a mixture of iron and clay, but this is not a completely new material. It symbolizes the crumbling of cohesion in this realm. There are only four animals in Daniel's vision, not five. That is remarkable. The Roman Empire as we know it from the history books, of course, no longer exists. But God's kingdom of peace, which according to the prophecy follows the fourth kingdom, has not yet come. Are we in a prophetic no man's land today? Or is the statue still standing?
Out of the fourth beast grows a horn, a symbol of power. It is the offshoot of the Roman Empire. The new Roman ruler if you like. The prophecy says that this ruler will have a different character from his predecessors Babylon, Persia, and Greece (Daniel 9:24). What's different?
The emphasis of the earlier empires lies on political influence in a particular region of the world. The book of Revelation however uses a number of metaphors to characterize the illustrious newcomer.
The new Roman ruler is an organization or institution that has political and religious authority, and thus also acquires decisive economic influence. For an in-dept explanation about this new superpower go to the tile [Babylon] and [1260 years of V-dominance]. All the political, religious, and economic ingredients come together in the use of a historical Roman title.
The title Pontifex Maximus was exclusively associated with imperial power in Rome during the first three centuries AD. A pontiff was considered a bridge builder between gods and humans. Thus, the addition Maximus denotes the highest religious authority on earth. The emperor himself was equal to a god. The title summarizes both the emperor's political and religious role.
“As the high priest and principal member of the College of Pontiffs (the Collegium Pontificum) the pontifex maximus was the highest official in ancient Roman state religion and held the main responsibility of maintaining the 'peace of the gods' (the pax decorum). As such, this 'highest bridge-builder' between the worlds of gods and men carried a substantial degree of both religious and, especially from the reign of Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE) onwards, political authority.”
The role that Emperor Augustus assumed as pontifex maximus brought with it a revival of 'old traditions'. Those traditions were linked to religion that had been on the world stage much earlier. The emperor’s job description included that he had to represent the gods and keep them happy. It continued an old line. The title may even go back as far as Persia, or even earlier, Babel. In any case, Augustus put many ancestral traditions back on the agenda.
“Augustus, the first Roman in history to combine the novel position of emperor with that of pontifex maximus, recalled in his Res Gestae : 'By the passage of new laws I restored many traditions of our ancestors which were then falling into disuse, and I myself set precedents in many things for posterity to imitate.'” (idem).
Over the centuries, members of the Vatican have claimed this eloquent title. Initially, they likely took the slightly less pretentious title summus pontifex. But from the 14th century onwards, the historically significantterm Maximus was definitively linked to the papacy. The message was clear. The pope considered (and still considers) himself the successor of the Roman emperor and the highest religious representative of that empire. That conclusion nobody can deny. Whether this is acknowledged by the rest of the world is an open question at this stage. In any case, it shows how Rome considers its own role. According to Bible prophecy, the consent will come about. Go to [a global pact] and [toward unity without Jesus] to get a better picture of this development.
The coveted combination of political and religious power is well covered by this illustrious title. Cleverly chosen. On the left you see Caesar with his title ('pont max') and on the right a Pope with the same name.
Dat de titel een duidelijk heidense lading met zich meebracht was geen probleem. Sterker nog, dat gaf er zelfs extra geur en kleur aan. Rome was de nieuwe religieuze en politieke reus, nu gekleed in een christelijk gewaad. Deze continuïteit wordt op de tijdlijn gesymboliseerd door de verbinding van de volgende drie elementen.
The term pax romana (Roman peace) points to a period in history when there was little war within the borders of the Roman Empire. That sounds positive, and it probably was to some extend for some of the people. However, the way to maintain this order was less pleasant. In fact, it was a form of absolute military control.
You can hear the echo of this order in the Bible, for example in the trial surrounding the condemnation of Jesus. Note that in the Jewish high court, the charge against Jesus is that He equates Himself with God by calling Himself the 'Son of God' (Luke 22:63-71). But in the trial before the Roman Pilate, the charge is worded differently: “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Luke 23:2). Rebellion against the emperor was the delicate point. There was no room for any form of disorder, so this nasty argument provided the best chance for the trial to succeed. At first Pilate sees through this, but when he notices that the riots are getting too strong, he sacrifices Jesus in favour of his own political career. He cannot afford to give the impression that he is not in control, that would cost him his job.
The pax romana did not imply that local religions and traditions had to disappear. On the contrary, there was room for all kinds of worldviews and lifestyles, if the order was respected. In a sense this was a good thing. People have their God given freedom to make their own choices. God is working on a voluntary covenant of love. Coercion and censorship do not fit in with that. He rather took the consequences of humanity’s sin upon Himself, than taking away our freedom. But under the pax romana, it was no problem at all if your lifestyle was morally reprehensible, as long as you respected the powers that be. Paul makes no bones about it when he says to the Philippians:
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” (Philippians 2:14-16).
The pax romana was not peace of heart, not a real peace, but an imposed order. It was a world system in which people were not renewed in their thinking and actions, but in which they submitted to the established order out of self-interest.
Is a new pax romana being built in our time? This time not with red shields, legions, and iron swords, but with surveillance, artificial intelligence, and digitization of all money? Will a new world order come about under the absolute authority of someone who assumes the pretensions of a pontifex maximus? That could very wellbe. In fact, God has foretold in His Word that such a thing will indeed happen. Towards the end of time, a worldwide religious-political system will arise, with which all kings and merchants of the earth will cooperate [a global pact]. This new Babylonian system can lock people in and out based on its self-determined criteria. Like in the old days, the so-called peace will be based on absolute control. At its deepest level, it will be about worship and commitment of Satan against God. Who has ultimate control over your live?
The present-day situation becomes more and more like that of the early church. The early Christians called Jesus Kurios, the Supreme Lord. This was a title reserved exclusively for the divine emperor. So it was quite something to say Jesus is Lord, certainly within the authoritarian climate of the pax Romana. Christians acknowledged the governmental institutions, but not as the highest source of authority. In our days the same question will arise. Were lies your ultimate allegiance? Whose law do you follow, and which promise do you embrace?
We are truly living in momentous times. But fear not, what we see on the world stage is a temporary convulsion. The impressive statue of Daniels vision, with its beginnings thousands of years ago, will sooncollapse. Make sure to choose the right side in the epic spiritual battle. Don’t let yourself be seduced by nice words, believing that humanity will bring peace and prosperity by its own merits, but entrust your life to the eternal Son of God, Jesus. For if God is for us, who can stand against us?
About 2800 years ago, the prophet Isaiah foresaw the future, writing about the coming of the Messiah. The one who seemingly was crushed in the tooth of the 4th empire, but rose from the dead and received all power in heaven and on earth. He alone is our only and complete hope, so don’t delay and entrust your life to His grace and goodness still today.
“You have multiplied the nation
and increased its joy;
They rejoice before You
according to the joy of harvest,
as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
For You have broken the yoke of his burden
and the staff of his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
as in the day of Midian.
For every warrior’s sandal
from the noisy battle,
and garments rolled in blood,
will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
For unto us a Child is born,
unto us a Son is given;
and the government will be upon His shoulder.
and His name will be called
Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
there will be no end,
upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
to order it and establish it with judgement and justice
from that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
(Isaiah 9: 3-7).