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Roman Revivals of a United Europe

How can we know that the last world superpower will be a modern-day incarnation of the Roman Empire? There are a few Bible indicators that point in that direction.

One is found in Revelation 13:3 and Revelation 13:12, where it is stated that this beast has a "deadly wound" that is healed. Prophetically, what does this mean?

After decades of decline, the Roman Empire indeed received a "deadly wound" in A.D. 476 when Rome's Emperor Romulus Augustulus was deposed by Germanic tribes led by Odoacer. But that was not the end of the Roman Empire. As we will see, that "wound" was indeed healed, and the empire would rise again—and again and again through history.

The description of this beast in Revelation 17 is linked with a powerful and influential entity called a "great harlot" ( Revelation 17:1 ). This woman represents a great false church that persecutes the people of God and sits on "seven hills" ( Revelation 17:9, NIV). Rome, of course, is famously known as the "City of Seven Hills."

As stated earlier, hills or mountains can be symbolic of governments or kingdoms, as is the case here.

Revelation 17:10 speaks of seven kings—leaders of governments or kingdoms—who will "continue a short time." Of those seven kings, it says that "five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come." That wording indicates that they rule in succession, one after another. The final seventh king is called "the beast" in Revelation 13:4. He will be allied with 10 other leaders or rulers who will "receive authority for one hour [symbolic of a short time] as kings with the beast" and "give their power and authority to the beast" ( Revelation 17:12-13 ).

Revelation 17:14 makes it clear that the seventh king, the "beast," will be in power until Jesus Christ returns to destroy him: "These [the 10 allied rulers or leaders] will make war with the Lamb[Jesus Christ], and the Lamb will overcome them..." ( Revelation 17:14 ).

A study of history shows the fulfillment of these remarkable prophecies in the form of successive new leaders of revivals of the Roman Empire after its "deadly wound" of A.D. 476, which was healed. These revivals were in cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church. Let's see how this was fulfilled in recorded history and what lies ahead yet to be fulfilled.

1. Justinian's Imperial Restoration

After Emperor Romulus Augustulus was deposed, less than a century passed before Justinian, the Eastern Roman or Byzantine emperor, ruling from Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), committed himself to restoring the empire in the West, launching what would be known to history as the "Imperial Restoration."

William Langer's An Encyclopedia of World Historystates, "Justinian's whole policy was directed toward the establishment of the absolute power of the emperor and toward the revival of a universal, Christian Roman Empire" (1960, p. 172). This same work refers to Justinian's "grandiose reconstruction of the Roman empire."

The Roman church hierarchy played a key role in this revival. As historian Will Durant points out, "In 554 Justinian promulgated a decree requiring that 'fit and proper persons, able to administer local government, be chosen as governors of the provinces by the bishops and chief personsof each province'" (The Story of Civilization, Vol. 4: The Age of Faith, 1950, pp. 519-520, emphasis in original).

The Roman Empire was alive again, having experienced its first of several revivals in league with the church. However, in the process of time, this imperial revival waned and gradually fell apart. Six more revivals were to follow Justinian's restoration.

2. Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor

The second of these prophesied revivals or resurrections of the Roman Empire occurred at the time of Charlemagne—Charles the Great—who was crowned by Pope Leo III in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome in A.D. 800. This act was indicative of the power and influence the Roman church would hold over the empire in future years, when emperors would receive the title Holy Roman Emperor.

Langer's Encyclopedia of World Historyrefers to this time as the "Revival of the Roman Empire in the West" (p. 155), adding that "Charlemagne's rule was a theocracy."

If there is any doubt that the Roman Empire was very much alive through Charlemagne's revival, he adopted as his official title, "Charles, the most serene Augustus, crowned by God, great and pacific emperor, governing the Roman Empire."

3. Otto I, "The Great Emperor"

After Charlemagne's death, his empire was divided among his grandsons, and although the imperial title continued, the empire disintegrated and remained weak and divided until the time of Otto the Great.

The new emperor of the German nation united the imperial realm mostly by conquest. He received the title of Roman emperor in A.D. 962 when he was crowned by Pope John XII. This marked the third of seven prophesied revivals or resurrections of the original Roman Empire.

According to Langer's Encyclopedia of World History, Otto's "coronation by the pope as Roman Emperor marked the revival of the Roman Empire" (p. 216). His Latin-inscribed seal read Otto Imperator Augustus—"Otto the Great Emperor."

The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, in a 2007 special edition on history, made the following observation about the German emperor: "Otto called himself...ruler of the Roman Empire, even though it came to an end a few centuries earlier. Charlemagne had already carried such a title.

"A belief spread about by Christians was that the Roman Empire would last until the end of the world. The prophet Daniel from the Old Testament prophesied of four world empires; then the anti-Christ would come. According to the configuration of the time, the Roman Empire would be the fourth empire. According to this interpretation, Otto saved the people and as such highlighted the claim to be over all other rulers in Europe" (p. 28).

Although the medieval concept of prophetic events as noted here was somewhat muddled, it does show that the idea of the Roman Empire as a contemporary power, and one that would exist at the time of the end of this age, was a well-established concept.

4. Charles V, On Whose Empire the Sun Never Set

Although Otto passed from the scene, his empire lasted for almost three centuries before being divided by rival factions.

This was followed, after nearly two decades without an emperor, by Rudolph I of the Habsburg family becoming "King of the Romans" in 1273—this distinction being used for those assuming the imperial throne without official coronation in Rome by the pope (as circumstances often prevented this from happening right away or at all). This title gave way in 1508 to Elected Emperor of the Romans, and emperors ceased making the journey to Rome. Only one was crowned by the pope—Charles V of the house of Habsburg in 1530 (all the elected emperors between 1438 and 1740 being of this royal family).

From his father, Charles inherited the vast Habsburg possessions of Central Europe, Germany and Italy. From his mother, daughter of the famed Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, he inherited Spain and its American possessions. Ruling over an empire on which the sun never set—an empire even larger than ancient Rome's—he was the most powerful man in the world.

Determined to realize the age-old dream of a unified Europe, Charles V's reign was the pinnacle of the fourth prophesied revival of the Roman Empire. "One of the greatest of the kings of Spain and Holy Roman emperor, [Charles V] was perhaps the last emperor to attempt to realize the medieval idea of a unified empire embracing the entire Christian world" (The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropaedia,Vol. 2, "Charles V").

However, major challenges thwarted his vision. In the course of his reign he fought against France, the Ottoman Empire of Suleiman the Magnificent, Protestants, and even forces of the pope. He eventually abdicated in 1556, leaving his Spanish possessions to his son Philip II and his Central European holdings to his brother Ferdinand.

5. Napoleon, Rival of Charlemagne and Alexander

One of history's most famous figures, Napoleon Bonaparte, was to lead the fifth prophesied attempt to resurrect the Roman Empire with the endorsement of the Roman church. As Will Durant observed, Napoleon "dreamt of rivaling Charlemagne and uniting Western Europe...then of following Constantine...to the capture of Constantinople...and proposed to rival Alexander by conquering India" (The Story of Civilization, Vol. 11: The Age of Napoleon, 1975, pp. 242-243). At the height of his power he ruled 70 million subjects across the European continent.

Born on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, Napoleon began to make a name for himself in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Having received a military education in France, he quickly proved himself a military genius in campaign after campaign.

But military power wasn't enough to satisfy his ambitions. In 1799 Napoleon maneuvered himself into France's top political position. In 1804 he crowned himself emperor of France, and later that year was crowned Emperor Napoleon I by Pope Pius II at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Before long his military conquests led him to rule Europe from the Elbe River on the east side of Germany to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as over Spanish and French territories in the New World—the greater part of the Americas.

Looking to Rome and Charlemagne for inspiration, Napoleon determined to unify Europe under his reign. However, his great ambitions proved his undoing. Plans to invade Britain fell apart after his navy was defeated by Admiral Lord Nelson at Trafalgar in 1805. In 1812 his invasion of Russia proved disastrous, with the loss of more than half a million men. Forced to abdicate his throne, he was sent into exile in 1814.

With this, the fifth revival of the Roman Empire drew to a close. But this was not the end of imperialist attempts to unify Europe.

6. German and Italian Dreams

Germany as we know it is a relatively modern creation. Before Napoleon, there were literally hundreds of small German states, each ruled by its own prince, duke or king. Austria and Prussia were the most dominant. In the 19th century Otto von Bismarck managed to unite most German territories under the Prussian Hohenzollern dynasty, with others allied with Austria.

In 1870 both groups of German states fought together against France, and in 1871 Prussia's King William (or Wilhelm) was proclaimed emperor of Germany in the French palace of Versailles. His title, kaiser, harkened back to the Roman title Caesar. Centuries earlier Otto the Great had established the first great German empire—the First Reich. Now Germany had its SecondReich.

German dreams of a greater empire inevitably led to more war. In 1914 the First World War broke out, a conflagration that took the lives of millions and transformed the face of Europe. But when it ended four years later, major problems remained. In the coming years two new strongmen would arise with new dreams to unite Europe and expand beyond—Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany. Both these men signed agreements with the Roman church that gave legitimacy to their fascist regimes.

Declaring the reappearance of the Roman Empire, Mussolini formed an alliance with Hitler, bringing about the Rome-Berlin Axis. Adolf Hitler proudly proclaimed Germany's Third Reich, envisioning a new German empire that would rival the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation established by Otto the Great. The sixth of the seven imperial revivals foretold in Revelation 17 was under way.

From 1939 until 1945 the Allied and Axis powers fought the Second World War, battling and bloodying each other across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Germany's dream of a Europe united under a new empire almost succeeded, and at a horrendous cost. As in World War I, millions perished and Europe was again left in ruins.

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