Chapters 2 and 3 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 16 | 17
Chapter 17: The Napoleonic Era
The story of Napoleon produces on me an impression like that produced by the Revelation of St. John the Divine. We all feel there must be something more in it, but we do not know what.
The Church of Rome is about to receive punishment
Throughout the Apocalypse, a Church is symbolized by a "woman" or a "city". During the description of the glorious and beloved City of New Jerusalem, which is descending from Heaven in chapter 21, it is said that the beloved City is built upon twelve rocks, each having the name of one of the Apostles, and is guided by the light of God and the Lamb. Thus, this City is the true Church of Christ, the Woman clothed with the Sun of chapter 12. So the other City described in the book of Revelation, alternately called Babylon, Sodom, Egypt, Jezebel, The Image to the Beast, The Whore and The Great City, has to be a Church that has committed spiritual "fornication" (the latter explained further down, as well as in chapter 2), and many crimes. History teaches us that this Church has existed. The adulterous Woman sitting on seven mountains, described in this chapter, is the Church that sits on the seven hills of Rome. This means neither that Roman Catholics are by definition false believers, nor that Protestants or Orthodox Christians are by definition true believers. It is the Roman Church establishment that is condemned here, and, sadly, imitators of this establishment have existed in both the Orthodox and the Protestant world.
17:1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
17:2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
But why should the Church of Rome be the recipient of such criticism? And why aren't the other Churches likewise criticized? Why does the Church of Rome occupy such a special place among the Churches? The reason is that, being free from Byzantine imperial control, she remained unchecked and, eventually, discovered and abused the power that she could exercise over the minds of the nearly universally illiterate people of the Dark and Middle Ages. The Germanic peoples were blinded by the light of Rome's imperial heritage, and sought to revive the Empire through its only remnant, the Roman Church. Thus, the latter eventually grew into a veritable ecclesiastical empire. As a result, the higher positions in the Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church became attractive to those who sought temporal power, of which this Church had a lot. History teaches us that, during the Dark and Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the Roman Pontiffs acted much like Roman Emperors, were usually evil, and would frequently, through their actions, dishonour the Word of God, whom they were supposed to represent. They became gods on earth (they claimed that they could forgive sins and that they were infallible) and demanded that the Church belong to Rome and to themselves, and not to Christ, the Church's rightful Husband. This is the meaning of the "fornication" spoken of in this chapter, as well as in chapter 2. The Orthodox Church, on the other hand, never had the opportunity to become an empire of her own. She was always under the control of one powerful leader or another; the Byzantine Emperor, the Turkish Sultan, the Russian Czar. And the Protestant Church came into existence at a time when people were waking up from the Middle Ages and would not allow any Church to rule their countries. It's not because of some blind hatred towards the Catholic Church that I explain the Apocalypse in a seemingly anti-Catholic way, but on the basis of universally accepted historical facts. I do not claim that Catholics are by definition worse Christians than Protestants or Orthodox Christians. In previous chapters, I recognized the Catholic Church's fundamental works during the Dark Ages in Europe, as well as her fierce opposition to the Nazi Party in Germany, before the Vatican helped eliminate that opposition, and while the Protestant Church of Germany was rather lukewarm. But not even a Catholic Christian can ignore the multitude of spiritual and physical crimes committed by the Church establishment, especially the one of the Church of Rome, throughout history.
We are now about to see the "Whore", residing in spiritual wilderness, and sitting on a Beast. In the Apocalypse, as we have seen, a Beast symbolizes an empire or other kind of political entity that is practically the ruler of the world in its corresponding era. The Whore resides in wilderness, much like the Woman clothed with the Sun of chapter 12 during the arid 1260-year period of Papal dominance. The Woman of chapter 12 was unwillingly chased into the wilderness by the enemies of the Word of God, while the Whore of this chapter is enjoying herself while being in the wilderness, since her purpose is not to produce the fruit of the Gospel, but to reign over the nations, which is incompatible with the cultivation of the Gospel. Both of these Churches reside in the wilderness, but for different reasons. In both cases, though, the result is the same: the Word of God is not adequately cultivated, and humankind is not able to enjoy the fruit of the Gospel, especially during those 1260 years.
17:3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
This Beast has seven heads and ten horns, meaning that it has something to do with the first Beast of chapter 13, or one of its particular versions throughout history. There are, interestingly, no crowns on either the heads or the horns, meaning that it is neither an empire ruled politically by Rome nor a coalition of independent kingdoms. It has the colour of blood, meaning that its existence is associated with the spilling of blood during war or revolution. Another of its characteristics is some sort of blasphemy.
More clues to this Beast's identity are given further down. Now, let's take a look at the woman sitting on it. She is dressed in imperial purple and in the colour of blood, symbolizing her imperial heritage and attitude and the blood she has caused to be spilled over the centuries. Her appearance is further beautified by precious stones and pearls, a symbol for her vast material possessions. She is holding a golden cup, which is actually used in her rituals, and has committed many abominable things, including spiritual "fornication".
17:4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
Another of her main characteristics is Mysticism; because Logic would have deprived her of her dominant status.
17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
"Mystery" could also mean that a hidden meaning lies behind "Babylon", which is not to be taken literally. It's obvious that the woman Babylon has something to do with the woman Jezebel of chapter 2, as well as with the City called Sodom and Egypt in chapter 11, since their description and actions are similar.
Even though her appearance is glamorous and awe-inducing, she is guilty of a multitude of crimes, in many cases committed against true Christian believers, as history ascertains.
17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
Thus, she is not worthy of admiration.
17:7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
The Empire that will punish the Roman Church is identified
Let's take another look at this particular Beast that is carrying her.
17:8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
This Beast was, and is not, and shall ascend. Thus, the time perspective from which this scene is viewed is before the emergence of this Beast, and after the downfall of another Beast that was identical or closely related to the one that shall emerge. The latter shall emerge after some sort of chaotic situation, symbolized by the "bottomless pit". It shall be a political entity different from any other that has existed in the world so far (it provokes admiration).
17:9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
The seven heads are an allusion to the seven hills of Rome. The Whore is sitting on seven "mountains", while she is also sitting on many waters, as the Angel tells John in the beginning of this chapter. In chapter 8, the Vandal nation is symbolized as a mountain. Thus, seven mountains could mean that the Whore reigns over the nations of the Earth. Later in this chapter, the Angel will tell John that "many waters" symbolize many peoples, over whom the Whore is reigning.
17:10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
One king (the sixth of the seven) "is". But we have seen that the Beast "is not", from the time perspective used here. How can both of these facts be true?
17:11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
And another confusing thing just popped up. The Beast described earlier in this chapter is identical to an eighth king, who is to rule after the seven have completed their reign. And the Beast is identical to one (or several, but not all, since the Beast does not exist during the reign of the sixth king) of the seven. So, some of these kings fulfill the criteria to be named Beasts, or political entities that have ruled the world, and some don't. And these kings have to be in some sort of sequence. Finding out what this sequence refers to is a key that will unlock the mysteries of the surrounding chapters. We must eliminate any misconceptions or false expectations. If the events described in this chapter have already been fulfilled in the past, then we don't have to expect a fulfillment in the future.
As we have seen, the Beast of chapter 13 had great power for 1260 years. Was this coalition of Catholic kingdoms ever united under one political leader? Under the Merovingian dynasty, from 497 on, the Frankish Kingdom was the only Western European state to be embracing the same doctrine as the Church of Rome (the Visigoths also joined the doctrine in 589, but their kingdom soon fell apart). The Frankish Kingdom can thus be said to represent a nascent Beast, on which the Church of Rome has placed the seven heads and ten horns that she has inherited from the original Roman Empire:
All non-Frankish kingdoms would eventually disappear. From 534 on, as has been shown during the analysis of chapter 11, the Frankish Kingdom was indisputably the most powerful Western European state:
The Beast was manifested in its full power by the Frankish Empire, which was founded in the year 800 by the Frankish King Charlemagne, who was crowned by Pope Leo III. All of civilized Europe, apart from the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim conquests in the Iberian peninsula, came to lie within the boundaries of that Empire for a few decades; no other organized Christian kingdom existed in Western Europe at that time. Even the Papal States were part of it. And it was certainly Roman in nature. Charlemagne was at that time considered to be the Western Roman Emperor, and historians traditionally regard him as the first ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, which would dominate European political affairs until 1806. In other words, the Frankish Empire was closely related to both the original Roman Empire and the Roman Church (to which it was loyal), thus deserving to be endowed with seven heads and ten horns. Here is a map of Europe in the year 800, dominated by the presence of the Empire of Charlemagne:
This Empire was divided and the modern states of Central and Western Europe descend from it:
The traditional inheritors of the Empire of Charlemagne are the French and the Germans, both descending from the original Franks to a varying degree. Let's take a look at France. What were the dynasties that ruled France until the abolition of Monarchy? And who ruled France after the Republic was proclaimed in 1792?
1. The Merovingian dynasty (from 481), with King Clovis I being its most prominent member. 2. The Carolingian dynasty (from 752), under which the (Holy Roman) Empire of Charlemagne was created. This dynasty was later broken up into two main branches, the French and the German branch. 3. The French branch of the Carolingians (from 843) ruled only nominally over a Kingdom made up of feuds. 4. The Capetian dynasty (from 987) then emerged and seized power, and, some centuries later, 5. The Valois branch of the Capetians (from 1328) took over, later to be replaced by 6. The Bourbon branch of the Capetians (from 1589), which included the famous Louis XIV and the less famous Louis XVI, who had to deal with the French Revolution, after the outbreak of which, in July 1789, 7. The National Assembly seized power and ruled together with Louis XVI for a short time (1789-1791), but then the Revolution became more radical, 8. The French Republic was proclaimed and the King was beheaded. Anarchy and chaos characterized the first two years of the Republic, during which a multitude of crimes were committed, and after which a period of moderate rule (the Directory) followed. The Republic declared war on all of Europe, in an attempt to spread the Revolution throughout the world and overthrow the old regimes. Napoleon Bonaparte emerged as a great military leader, leading the French army to many victories. He founded Republics in the Netherlands and in Italy; those functioned more like dictatorships and later gave their places to kingdoms ruled by friends and relatives of Napoleon. The Pope was taken prisoner and died in exile in 1799. Not one Catholic European kingdom remained undefeated by the French armies. Spain, Germany and Poland became French satellites. Austria was forced to accept Napoleon's terms for peace. The Holy Roman Empire disappeared from the face of the earth. Half of the European part of Russia was also occupied. Meanwhile, Napoleon had concentrated all power in his hands, had overthrown the Directory and had become First Consul in 1799 and then Emperor in 1804.
This is what Europe looked like before Napoleon's campaigns:
And here is what Europe looked like in 1812, at the height of Napoleon's power:
When he became Emperor, Napoleon claimed that his Empire would adhere to the principles of the Revolution expressed in the Constitution of the former Republic. Even though the Empire's adherence to the revolutionary democratic ideals would gradually decrease, it was officially based on them, and claimed to be a revolutionary Empire. Napoleon was actually voted Emperor by the legislative bodies and the French people accepted this through a referendum. The French Empire was still referred to as "Revolutionary France", even though the Revolution had officially ended in 1799. When Napoleon was finally defeated and then exiled, first to the island of Elba and then to the island of St. Helena, and the Bourbons returned to power, the European countries that had been opposing Napoleon expressed their relief that the Revolution had been defeated.
In other words, the Republic and the Empire should not be viewed as two separate "kings" in the sequence of Frankish/French rulers. After all, the Emperor had also been the head of the Republic from 1799 to 1804. The transition from Republic to Empire took place in a smooth way, through democratic procedures (at least in theory) and a referendum. After the victories of the Republic's armies, Napoleon had to rule over a large territory, which was continually threatened by outside and inside enemies. A strong government was needed, and Napoleon felt that only an emperor could deal with the challenges facing France.
Many times did Napoleon affirm that his goal was to revive Charlemagne's Empire, considering himself a successor to the latter (As we saw in chapter 16, the Third Reich and its vast conquests are also a revival of Charlemagne's Beast). However, Napoleon took his imperial crown from the Pope's hands and did not allow the Pope to crown him like Charlemagne had done. Even though a Concordat had been signed with the new Pope in 1801, the latter was again taken prisoner, like his predecessor, a couple of years after the proclamation of the Empire, and would only be reinstated after Napoleon's fall. In other words, Napoleon and the Papacy were not the best of friends. But the fact that Napoleon took his crown from the Pope's hands means that he indeed considered himself to be the new Western Roman Emperor. Moreover, he chose the Roman eagle as the official symbol of his Empire. In other words, Napoleon took the French Republic and made her into a new seven-headed and ten-horned Beast.
After all this historical account of French rulers, we can see that the "kings" occupying positions 1, 2 and 8 in the line of succession do in fact, at some point during their existence, fulfill the criteria to be named seven-headed and ten-horned Beasts. The others do not, as they co-exist, during their respective eras, with other strong European kingdoms loyal to the Church of Rome. The point of view from which this line of succession is seen is the reign of king #6 (French Kingdom under the Bourbon dynasty). Kings #1 and #2 (Frankish Kingdom under the Merovingians and Frankish Kingdom/Empire under the Carolingians), at least at some point during their existence, constituted seven-headed and ten-horned Beasts (the Beast "was"). King #8 (French Republic/Empire) is another seven-headed and ten-horned Beast, which is going to arise in the future (from the point of view used here). During the time of king #6, the seven-headed and ten-horned Beast of chapter 13 still existed, but, when it says that the Beast "is not", it means that king #6 is not a Beast.
The French Republic/Empire was founded upon the Revolution, and that's why the new Beast is scarlet-coloured. It ascends out of the "bottomless pit", meaning the chaos and anarchy of the Revolution, most evident during the so-called "Reign of Terror" (mainly 1793-94), during which the guillotine was very frequently used. The Beast has no crowns on either the heads or the horns. The French Republic did evolve into an Empire, and it could thus be argued that it should bear crowns, at least on its heads. However, this Beast's purpose was to overthrow all of the old European dynasties and replace them with regimes based on revolutionary democratic principles, and was itself, in theory, based on such principles as well. It can be said that the Beast is actually the French Republic, which, due to the circumstances, was forced to become an Empire. Furthermore, crowns on the seven heads would mean that Rome, the seven-hilled city, was the administrative centre of the Empire, but that was not true. Crowns on the horns would mean that the peripheral kingdoms were politically independent, and that was also not true. The "names of blasphemy" probably refer to the spirit of atheism, which almost killed religion, and which was fully manifested throughout Europe during the years after the Revolution. These "names of blasphemy" are diffusely written on the Beast, and not on any political figure or institution. One would expect, though, a Beast to be friendly to the Whore, and the French Republic/Empire was anything but that, especially during the years of the Republic. Let's clear this up.
17:12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
The ten horns of the Roman Dragon were its provinces around the Mediterranean, while the Beast's horns in chapter 13 were the Catholic kingdoms of Europe, mostly during the Middle Ages. In analogy, the horns in this instance must symbolize the regimes established by the French Revolutionary armies throughout Europe (again, ten is a symbolic number). Not one of these new regimes had existed before the Revolution (they "have received no kingdom as yet"), and their reign was short ("one hour"). Napoleon was ultimately defeated, so the regimes that had existed before the Revolution were eventually reinstated.
17:13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
Don't forget that these Republics and Kingdoms (the ten horns) were ruled by friends and relatives of Napoleon.
17:14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
In the European order of things after the conquests of the French Revolutionary armies, a tendency to do away with religion arose, mainly among the educated classes of European cities, as had happened in France. Atheism had finally expressed itself, after centuries of incubation. It is not surprising that it was expressed in an extreme way, as is the case with every new ideology that is introduced into society. The evils and impracticality of extreme atheism had not yet been proven by experience, and many people thought that, if the old structures were to be destroyed, everything that had been associated with them (including religion) would have to be destroyed as well, in order to prevent the old world order from re-emerging. But religion was to prove itself indestructible.
17:15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
This is indeed an appropriate description for the most populous religious denomination in the world.
17:16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
In the Greek text, it says that both the Beast and the ten horns shall hate the Whore etc., but the meaning is pretty much the same. Napoleon's laws, in accordance with the ideas of the age, formed the basis of a completely secularized State, so the Roman Catholic Church was deprived of her riches, influence and power in this new order of things.
17:17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
The Beast and its horns, in their battle against religion, inadvertently fulfill God's wish to see the Roman Church establishment destroyed. It is made clear in this verse that the Beast described in this chapter is an enemy of the Whore. Let's not forget that Napoleon's Beast is not a version of the Beast of chapter 13, but instead of Daniel's seven-headed and ten-horned Beast, of which the one of chapter 13, the friend of the Whore, is only a version. Let's sum up the empires Daniel's fourth Beast is made up of: 1. The Dragon of the 12th chapter, symbolizing the Roman Empire. The latter was a continuation of the ancient Roman Republic, which had ruled most of the Mediterranean for many decades before the Empire was proclaimed. The Republic had existed before the time of Christ only, so the Apocalypse does not deal with it. It can be included under the Dragon, since the Empire was the Republic's direct continuation. 2. The Roman Catholic Beast of chapter 13, that was, for some time, during the early stages of its existence, interchangeable with the Frankish Kingdom or Empire, 3. France, enlarged by Napoleon's campaigns, during the years of the French Republic and subsequent Empire. 4. Hitler's Third Reich, accompanied by the little Dragon of Mussolini (chapter 16). In the course of history, the aforementioned empires were the only ones that ever managed to unite the whole of Europe (the centre of the world during the last two millennia) under their rule, and they all did it, each in its own way, in the name of Rome.
Enjoy (?) a panoramic view of the Beast through the centuries:
|The red Dragon of chapter 12:|
|The Beast of chapter 13 during its early years, as the Frankish Empire:|
|The Beast of chapter 13 in its later phase, as a coalition of Catholic kingdoms:|
|The scarlet Beast of chapter 17:|
|The Beast and Dragon of chapter 16:|
17:18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
I think this verse says it all.