2. The Roman Empire “Removed”


Henry Grattan Guinness

The second contradiction charged is thus expressed:

“Mr. Guinness states that the Roman Empire was to be put out of the way and removed, according to ancient tradition, before the man of sin was revealed, and yet he states that this man of sin was to be one of the horns of the same empire according to the prophet Daniel, and the eighth head of the beast according to St. John… The empire could not be out of the way and in the way at the same time. This is the first great contradiction which covers the whole book.”

Our critic has here again failed to master the subject of which he treats. A little more patient study would have saved him from misrepresentation or mistake. The Roman Empire is represented as existing under seven heads or successive forms of government. Five of these had already fallen in John’s time, a sixth was then in existence, a seventh was to arise and continue a short space, be apparently wounded to death, and then revive, and this revived seventh or eighth head, the last form of Roman power, is interpreted as representing the Papacy. What is asserted, is simply that the Roman power as existing in St. Joints day, the empire of the Caesars, was the hindrance to the development of the Papal dynasty, the man of sin mentioned by Paul. This qualification, “as then existing,” removes every shadow of apparent contradiction. It is tantamount to saying that it was needful that in a succession of symbolic heads, the sixth and seventh must fall before the eighth could appear; in other words, that in a series of successive forms of government, exercised from Rome, the Pagan must pass away before the Papal could be established. While the Caesars ruled on the Tiber, the bishops of Rome had no chance of becoming monarchs, but when the Western Empire of Rome fell, under the inroads of the Gothic barbarians, then the bishops of Rome began to develop into temporal sovereigns, and to lay the foundations for the more than regal and imperial power which they so long wielded from Rome.

That the Thessalonians and the early fathers did not understand that “the man of sin” was to be another form of Roman power has nothing to do with the matter. They did not understand a great deal that was revealed to them, nor were they intended to do so; not unto them but unto us were these things to be made plain; but they did understand clearly that the Roman empire under which they lived was the hindrance to the development of the great predicted power of evil. Their testimony on this point is unanimous, and bad as the rule of the Caesars was, they expected, on the strength of this prophecy, a worse state of things to succeed on its fall. There was nothing in the revelation made to them to show them where the man of sin should rise, but only when; but understanding as we do from later revelations, and from the fulfillments which the lapse of time has brought, that the man of sin is of Roman origin, and is the last form of Roman rule, we can see how needful it was that the old Pagan form should be “taken out of the way” before the Christian, Papal form could appear, and be established.

Daniel’s fourfold image and the vision of the four beasts both represent the Roman power as continuing in existence up to the time of the second advent, and as being destroyed only by it They represent it as rising on the fall of the Grecian power, and as occupying the whole interval between that date and the close; there is no break or gap in the image, and the fourth beast continues till the second advent Hence since the old empire of Rome, ended in the fifth century, some other form of power exercised from Rome must have risen, must now be in existence, and awaiting; destruction by the second advent of Christ. What other power than the Papacy has replaced the old Roman Empire, ruled Western Europe from Rome for the last twelve centuries, and united in one body under one head the ten horns or kingdoms which rose out of its ruins?


Learn More →