The little horn rises after the ten horns (7:24). According to historians, the ten horns were complete in the year 476 A. D., so this must mean that the little horn was to arise to power sometime after 476 A. D.
The Roman Catholic Papacy did arise to supremacy after the year 476 A. D. The Papal power could not exercise absolute sovereignty until the ten kingdoms were subjected to its control. When Odoacer, king of the Heruli, deposed Romulus Agustulus in 476 A. D., the fragmentation of the Roman Empire was complete. Yet even though the ten divisions of the Roman Empire were complete by 476 A. D., there were three who were rebellious and refused to submit to the Bishop of Rome (the Vandals, the Heruli and the Ostrogoths).
The little horn was to pluck up three of the first [ten] horns by the roots (7:8). This means that these three nations would be uprooted from history. Daniel 7:20-21 explains that three of the first horns would fall before the little horn, and Daniel 7:24 tells us that the little horn would subdue three horns. In other words, three of the first ten nations would disappear from history!!
Seven of the ten Barbarian kingdoms were converted to Christianity and submitted to the authority of the Bishop of Rome. The first were the Franks, under king Clovis, and through various means, (intermarriage, war and diplomacy) other tribes followed his example. However, three of the kingdoms who converted to Christianity embraced the heretical teachings of Arius. Arius (who was presbyter in Alexandria around the year 320 A. D.) taught that ‘Christ was created out of nothing as the first and greatest of all creatures’ (Loraine Boettner, Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, pp. 64-65).
Consider carefully a few more historical statements which throw some light on the situation at this time. Stanley (History of the Eastern Church, p. 151) says: “The whole of the vast Gothic population which descended on the Roman empire, so far as it was Christian at all, held to the faith of the Alexandrian heretic. Our first Teutonic version of the Scriptures was by an Arian missionary, Ulfilas. The first conqueror of Rome, Alaric, and the first conqueror of Africa, Genseric, were Arians. Theodoric, the great king of Italy, and hero of the ‘Nibelungen Lied,’ was an Arian. The vacant place in his massive tomb at Ravenna is a witness of the vengeance which the Orthodox took on his memory, when, in their triumph, they tore down the porphyry vase in which his Arian subjects had enshrined his ashes.”
The teachings of Arius were condemned in two great church councils, Nicea (325 A. D.) and Constantinople (381 A. D.). These three Arian kingdoms were a threat to the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome [later called the Pope]. To make a long story short, these three kingdoms eventually were uprooted by the imperial power acting under the influence of the Bishop of Rome. The Ostrogoths (originally from Yugoslavia), by order of the emperor, dealt the heretical Heruli a devastating defeat in 493 A. D.
Ranke, in his History of the Popes (London, edition of 1871), Vol.I, p.9, says: “But she [the church] fell, as was inevitable, into many embarrassments, and found herself in an entirely altered condition. A pagan people took possession of Britain; Arian kings seized the greater part of the remaining West; while the Lombards, long attached to Arianism, and as neighbors most dangerous and hostile, established a powerful sovereignty before the very gates of Rome. The Roman bishops, meanwhile, beset on all sides, exerted themselves with all the prudence and pertinacity which have remained their peculiar attributes, to regain the mastery, at least in the patriarchal diocese.”
Machiavelli, in his History of Florence, p. 14, says: “Nearly all the wars which the northern barbarians carried on in Italy, it may be here remarked, were occasioned by the pontiffs; and the hordes with which the country was inundated, were generally called in by them.”
These extracts give us a general view of the state of affairs at this time, and show us that though the hands of the Roman pontiffs might not be visibly manifest in the movements upon the political board, they constituted the power working assiduously behind the scenes to secure their own purposes. The relation which these Arian kings sustained to the pope, from which we can see the necessity of their being overthrown to make way for papal supremacy, is shown in the following testimony from Mosheim, given in his History of the Church, cent.6, part 2, chap.2, sec.2:-
“On the other hand, it is certain, from a variety of the most authentic records, that both the emperors and the nations in general were far from being disposed to bear with patience the yoke of servitude which the popes were imposing upon the Christian church. The Gothic princes set bounds to the power of these arrogant prelates in Italy, permitted none to be raised to the pontificate without their approbation, and reserved to themselves the right of judging of the legality of every new election
An instance in proof of this statement occurs in the history of Odoacer, the first Arian king above mentioned, as related by Bower in his History of the Popes, Vol.I, p.271. When, on the death of Pope Simplicius, A.D.483, the clergy and people had assembled for the election of a new pope, suddenly Basilius, lieutenant of King Odoacer, appeared in the assembly, expressed his surprise that any such work as appointing a successor to the deceased pope should be undertaken without him, in the name of the king declared all that had been done null and void, and ordered the election to be begun anew. Certainly the horn which exercised such a restrictive power over the papal pontiff must be taken away before the pope could reach the predicted supremacy. Meanwhile, Zeno, the emperor of the East, and friend of the pope, was anxious to drive Odoacer out of Italy (Machiavelli, p.6), a movement which he soon had the satisfaction of seeing accomplished without trouble to himself, in the following manner. Theodoric had come to the throne of the Ostrogothic kingdom in Moesia and Pannonia. Being on friendly terms with Zeno, he wrote him, stating that it was impossible for him to restrain his Goths within the impoverished province of Pannonia, and asking his permission to lead them to some more favorable region, which they might conquer and possess. Zeno gave him permission to march against Odoacer, and take possession of Italy.
The emperor sent Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths to do battle with Odoacer, king of the Heruli. Odoacer was the first of the barbarians who reigned over the Romans. He took the throne of Italy, according to Gibbon (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol.III, pp.510,515), in 476. Of his religious belief Gibbon (p.516) says: “Like the rest of the barbarians, he had been instructed in the Arian heresy; but he revered the monastic and episcopal characters, and the silence of the Catholics attests the toleration which they enjoyed.”
Again he says (p.547): “The Ostrogoths, the Burgundians, the Suevi, and the Vandals, who had listened to the eloquence of the Latin clergy, preferred the more intelligible lessons of their domestic teachers; and Arianism was adopted as the national faith of the warlike converts who were seated on the ruins of the Western empire. This irreconcilable difference of religion was a perpetual source of jealousy and hatred; and the reproach of barbarian was embittered by the more odious epithet of heretic. The heroes of the North, who had submitted, with some reluctance, to believe that all their ancestors were in hell, were astonished and exasperated to learn that they themselves had only changed the mode of their eternal condemnation.”
Odoacer was slain by Theodoric and the Heruli , as a kingdom, disappeared from history. There are records however of Heruli tribesmen continuing to serve in the Roman armies, and others returning to their home in Scandinavia, and still others settling among the Gepids of Byzantine.
Theodoric however, being Arian also, was not disposed to allow the church of Rome any more freedom than did Odoacer. The following incident will show how completely the papacy was in subjection to his power. The Catholics in the East, having commenced a persecution against the Arians in 523, Theodoric summoned Pope John into his presence, and thus addressed him: “If the emperor [Justin, the predecessor of Justinian] does not think fit to revoke the edict which he has lately issued against those of my persuasion [that is, the Arians], it is my firm resolution to issue the like edict against those of his [that is, the Catholics]; and to see it everywhere executed with the same rigor. Those who do not profess the faith of Nicaea are heretics to him, and those who do are heretics to me. Whatever can excuse or justify his severity to the former, will excuse the justify mine to the latter. But the emperor,” continued the king, “has none about him who dare freely and openly speak what they think, or to whom he would hearken if they did. But the great veneration which he professes for your See, leaves no room to doubt but he would hearken to you. I will therefore have you to repair forthwith to Constantinople, and there to remonstrate, both in my name and your own, against the violent measures in which that court has so rashly engaged. It is in your power to divert the emperor from them; and till you have, nay, till the Catholics [this name Theodoric applies to the Arians] are restored to the free exercise of their religion, and to all the churches from which they have been driven, you must not think of returning to Italy.” – Bower’s History of the Popes, Vol.I, p.325. For any secular king to command the bishop of Rome and expect obedience such as this, shows clearly the necessity of the removal of this horn also before the ‘little horn’ could claim complete autonomy, and for the prophecy to be complete.
While the Catholics were thus feeling the restraining power of an Arian king in Italy, they were suffering a violent persecution from the Arian Vandals in Africa. (Gibbon, chap.,37, sec.2.) Elliott, in his Horae Apocalypticae, Vol.III, p.152, note 3, says: “The Vandal kings were not only Arians, but persecutors of the Catholics: in Sardinia and Corsica, under the Roman Episcopate, we may presume, as well as in Africa.”
The second horn to be uprooted, were the Vandals who were crushed (in 534 A. D.) by Belisarius, general of emperor Justinian’s armies. Procopius relates that the African war was undertaken by Justinian for the relief of the Christians (Catholics) in that quarter; and that when he expressed his intention in this respect, the prefect of the palace came very near dissuading him from his purpose; but a dream appeared to him in which he was bidden “not to shrink from the execution of his design; for by assisting the Christians he would overthrow the power of the Vandals.” – Evagrius’ Eccl.Hist., book 4, chap.16.
Which left the remaining horn, the Ostrogoths. Since defeating the Heruli in Italy and murdering Odoacer , Theodoric and the Ostrogoths had become extremely powerful. But the Bishops were not inclined to be continually embarrassed by their presumptuous power, and implored Justinian to do something about them.
There were several battles between Belisarius and the Ostrogoths. The decisive battle, however, was in February (remember the month, we will come back to it later) of the year 538. The armies of Justinian, as well as the ravages of disease, decimated the armies of the Ostrogoths, they were expelled from Rome and in short order, disappeared from the historical scene in Europe. The third horn had been uprooted once and for all!
It is of great significance that in 533 A. D. Justinian proclaimed a decree which recognized the Pope’s headship over all the churches of east and west. This decree was actually a letter written by Justinian to Pope John. The letter was included in The Code of Justinian which is a collection of Justinian’s laws. It must be remembered that this letter had the force of law. In effect, the Code of Justinian was the standard law of all Europe for over one thousand years until it was replaced in the late 1700’s by the Code of Napoleon. Part of Justinian’s decree reads as follows: “Therefore, we have exerted ourselves to unite all the priests of the East and subject them to the See of Your Holiness, and hence the questions which have at present arisen, although they are manifest and free from doubt, and, according to the doctrine of Your Apostolic See, are constantly firmly observed and preached by all priests. . . because you are the head of all the Holy Churches, for We shall exert Ourselves in every way (as has already been stated), to increase the honor and authority of your See. . .” (S. P. Scott, The Civil Law, vol. 12, pp. 11-13).
The significance of this decree is that the Roman Emperor was legitimizing the spiritual authority of the Pope. The state was using its clout to proclaim that only the Pope was the authentic spokesman for orthodox Christianity.
(This is highly significant when considering Revelation 13:2, which pertains directly to the establishment of the papal power. The dragon, when comparing Rev.12:3,4 and 13:2, can be clearly seen as representing not just Satan, but pagan Rome. So when we consider that the dragon is giving papal Rome its authority, seat, and power, then the above historical scenario takes on great significance.) Though this decree was given in 533 A. D., it was not fully implemented until the rebel Ostrogoths were devastated in 538 A. D.