I've been focused on the papacy as the Antichrist, with the Protestant Reformers as the main source for that viewpoint, Luther in particular. I don't usually bring in the prophecy of the Revived Roman Empire, which is based on the statue of Daniel 2, but the two are clearly connected. The Roman Church inherited the visible trappings of the Roman empire's pagan religion, the robes and headgear for instance, and the title Pontifex Maximus for the head of that religion, mixing it all together with some of the teachings of Christianity and calling it Christian.
The point of this post was to consider that there are two legs to the section of Nebuchadnezzar's statue that pertains to the Roman Empire, and since the two arms had significance in the empire of the Medes and Persians that followed Babylon, it makes sense that there would also be significance in the two legs of the Roman Empire. The Eastern Orthodox Church or the empire of Byzantium would be the likely other leg for starters, but Islam in the form of the Turkish invasions conquered Constantinople, the head of that empire, in 1453.
That makes Islam the other leg of the Roman Empire of the statue of Daniel 2, another politicized religion like Roman Catholicism, now already calling itself the Islamic State. A few decades ago Islam might not have been easily seen in this role but today it's a very reasonable interpretation as that religion has been growing and spreading just as it did in Luther's time under the Turks, killing Christians in Africa and the Middle East, beheading western journalists with their horrific bloody satanic zeal. Just as the Reformers in that day understood its spread to be God's judgment against the apostasy of the Christian church, those of us who see God's judgment on the West today can see it as God's instrument as well.
The West, meaning principally Europe and the U.S., are doing very little to resist the spread of Islam, and are of course absolutely blind to the wolfish character of the false Church of Romanism. Muslim-fomented uprisings in France are not being checked, and nobody is watching our borders where not only hordes of Catholics are being allowed to enter, who can be expected before long to acquire voting status, but Muslims very likely as well with their zeal to blow us all up if we won't bow to the Islamic State.
Of course all this is prophecy and it has to come about eventually that these two powers will dominate the world, but I'd like to think we could still muster a Christian opposition, which would have to start with a Christian Reformation or Revfival, that would push it all back for another century or two.
[This isn't too far-fetched when you consider that the Reformation rose up during the Turkish invasion and effectively quelled both that and the Roman Church as well for the next few centuries. As Isaiah 59:19 says, when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Lord will raise up a standard against him.]
I hope this makes the communication below a little clearer.
In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has a dream about a great statue, which only the prophet Daniel by God's grace is able to interpret for him. It is a statue of a man with a head of gold, his chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. In the dream a stone is cut out "without hands" and smashes the feet, and the statue breaks up and is destroyed.
Daniel gives the interpretation that the statue represents a series of kingdoms yet to come, beginning with the head of gold representing Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon, followed by lesser kingdoms and ending with the kingdom represented by the iron legs which will break in pieces and subdue all things. The feet of iron and clay will be partly strong and partly weak. The stone that smashes the feet and breaks the whole statue is the final kingdom set up by the God of heaven and it shall stand forever.
The labeled image above is a typical representation of this statue as presented in many churches and Bible studies, except that the chest and arms of silver are usually represented as Medo-Persia, showing the rule of the two kingdoms of the Medes and the Persians in the two arms. Next, Greece conquers through Alexander the Great, ushering in the Hellenistic period during which the conquered nations all learned to speak common Greek, which is the language of the New Testament; and the legs of iron are of course the Roman Empire, during which time Jesus Christ came into the world. The feet and toes as Western Europe divided into ten nations within a revived Roman Empire is considered to be prophetic of the world situation during the last of the last days.
This basic view of the prophetic meaning of the statue is the Futurist view, from the very popular Dispensationalist camp. A revived Roman Empire is regarded as the culmination of the series of earthly kingdoms, prophesied to dominate the world in the last days yet to come.
I held this view as I think the vast majority of Christians still do, until I recently encountered the historical interpretation of the last days, in which this revived Roman Empire has been recurrent throughout history, through the political aspect of the Roman Church. First in the form of the Holy Roman Empire, followed by attempts to revive it in the Second Reich and then the failed Third Reich, all at least covertly headed by the papacy of the Roman Church. Many consider the European Union to be the next attempt to revive it in power, and that may well turn out to be the case, although the Futurist system doesn't put the papacy at the head of this revived empire or see the papacy as the Antichrist. Even where these attempted revivals of the Roman Empire are recognized as pertaining to the last days, they are generally not connected with the Roman Church.
But neither does today's Reformed eschatology connect it with the Roman Church. Before I had the benefit of Reformed teaching, most of what I learned came from the Dispensationalist camp which views the Antichrist exclusively as a figure yet to come, who is to be revealed in the last seven years before the Second Coming of Christ. This is apparently due to the Dispensationalist or Futurist understanding of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel outlined in Daniel 9:24 - 27, meaning "weeks of years" or 70 x 7 or 490 years, 69 "weeks" of which are understood to have been fulfilled at the first coming of Christ, counting the time right down to His riding into Jerusalem on the donkey. That leaves one week or seven years to be fulfilled in the future, during which the final Antichrist is to reign for at least part of that period. This has led to all kinds of speculation about the possible identity of this figure among those who believe we are in the last of the last days, and various contemporary political personalities have taken their turn in the role. Hal Lindsey's blockbuster book of 1970, The Late Great Planet Earth, popularized this view of the last days, and the more recent book series, Left Behind, which envisions what would happen if the Church were raptured out of the world, has kept it in the public eye. This line of thinking has had the effect of keeping our focus exclusively on a future Antichrist who is rarely if ever considered in relation to the Roman Church.
What the Reformers had to say about the papacy as Antichrist has been utterly lost in this theological system, and it may be due at least partly to its influence that the Roman Church is now widely accepted among nominal Protestants as just another Christian denomination, its very opposition to the gospel itself now lost or at least blurred in the minds of a majority of Christians.
However, today's Reformed theoloogians don't do a much better job with the last days or the Antichrist. I don't completely reject the Dispensationalist system -- the counting of the weeks of years is convincing to me for instance, so I can accept the view that there is yet a seven-year period in the future that will complete the work of redemption as envisioned by Daniel. I can consider this a possibility AND that the papacy is the Antichrist, a final expression yet to come. The Reformed position on the seventy weeks, on the other hand, makes the numbers as good as irrelevant, mere symbols and far from convincing ones. And along with the Futurists I too anticipate the revealing of the final Antichrist, although I look first to the papacy for this, keeping open the possibility that the Antichrist himself could be a Hitler type figure supported by the papacy, while the Dispensationalists pretty much disregard the papacy as a candidate for the Antichrist. If today's Reformed also followed the Reformers in their historical eschatology, which views the papacy as the Antichrist throughout history, I'd place myself more fully inside their camp. It's really the historical eschatology that has captivated me most recently, the eschatology of the Reformers themselves. (I think today's Reformed also fail to appreciate the role of Israel in the last days, though the Reformers themselves didn't make this mistake, as I noted on another of my blogs a while back.)
All that is to explain how Christians have been lulled to sleep by false theories about the Antichrist and the nature of our pagan opponents as represented in Nebuchadnezzar's statue. This is how it comes about that when you begin to contemplate the role of the papacy through history in its tireless efforts to undermine the true gospel, a viewpoint we could have learned from the Reformers themselves if they'd been taken seriously as they should have been, that's when you may experience what I mean by waking up among wolves. The veil of the irrelevant ditherings about the identity of the Antichrist to come in the near future falls away and we see that he has been there all along, waiting for his chance.
But even recognizing the papacy as the Antichrist isn't the whole story.
Why Does The Roman Empire Have Two Legs?
If the Dispensationalist / Futurist interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's statue offers an explanation for there being two legs to the Roman Empire they don't make much of it. Since they limit that symbol to the original Roman Empire which collapsed in the fifth century the most natural interpretation would be the division into the Eastern and Western branches, Byzantium or Eastern Orthodoxy in the East, and Rome in the West.
But here is where the Reformers' Historical Eschatology, seeing the Roman Antichrist ongoing in history, brings out a connection that both Dispensationalism and Reformed theology miss, though the Reformers themselves wrote about this, principally Luther.
According to Luther on Islam and the Papacy by Dr. F. N. Lee:
After Luther learned to trust in Christ alone for his salvation in 1517f, he increasingly saw both Islam and the Papacy as the two huge apostasies which the Holy Scriptures predicted would long obscure True Christianity -- until both would ultimately be quashed and vanquished.In 1453, Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium or the Eastern Empire, was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, conquered, in other words, by Islam. F.N. Lee continues:
In the Biblical Book of Daniel, Luther saw both Islam and the Papacy predicted.
Luther on Islam and the Papacy as the two legs of the image in Daniel chapter two
Christ, the Stone in Daniel chapter two, at His Resurrection shattered the Pagan Roman Empire -- in principle. Ephesians 1:20f & 4:8-10, and Colossians 2:12-15. Then, from A.D. 600 onward, that shattered Roman Empire divided into two legs -- as predicted in Daniel’s explanation of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. The left leg became the Western Roman Empire, under the Papacy in Rome. The right leg, the Eastern Roman Empire, with its capital Constantinople, later succumbed to Islam -- under the Turk Mohammed II.and his awesome armies in 1453.Islam! Well, haven't we been wondering and speculating where Islam fits into the end times? The Reformers, who lived in the days of the Turkish conquests, had it figured out long ago, but instead of benefiting from their insight, in my opinion we've been traipsing down rabbit trails.
As Lee presents Luther's thinking on this subject, the Pope is THE Antichrist because he has set himself up inside the Church and taken the place of Christ Himself, but the "Turk" or Muslim is also a spirit of Antichrist in his outright denial of the Deity of Christ. It is also interesting that both arose in the seventh century, the papacy being officially established first in 606, and Islam originally given to Mohammed in the year 610.
Luther gives God's judgment on the Church as the explanation for the rise of the two apostasies.
Today these two legs of the antichrist empire are huge, a billion Catholics and well over a billion Muslims.
Interestingly, Luther judges the papacy as the worse of the two, since the "Turk" is up front about his opposition to Christ, while the Pope pretends to be His friend. F. N. Lee again:
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther continues: “The Pope, with his followers, commits a greater sin than the Turk and all the Heathen.... The Turk.forces no one to deny Christ and to adhere to his [own Islamic] faith.... Though he rages most intensely by murdering Christians in the body -- he, after all, does nothing by this but fill heaven with saints....For reference: Chris Pinto's recent radio show on the same subject, Luther, Calvin and Islam . He quotes Luther from E.M.Plass, What Luther Says.
“The Pope does not want to be either enemy or Turk... He [the Pope] fills hell with nothing but‘Christians’.... This is committing real spiritual murder, and is every bit as bad as the teaching and blasphemy of Mohammed and the Turks. But whenever men do not allow him [the Pope] to practice this infernal diabolical seduction -- he adopts the way of the Turk, and commits bodily murder too....
And here's my other Waking Up Among Wolves blog post.