Is Rome the beast (antichrist) in the book of Revelation?
The prophecies of Daniel speak of four Gentile world powers that would dominate the land of Israel until Christ returns. Historically we know these to be Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Rome is the fourth part of the image of chapter 2, one that divides into two legs (as actually occurred with Rome) and later into 10 toes or kingdoms (which also occurred historically when Rome fell and divided into many kingdoms). Rome is also the fourth beast, the one diverse from all the others in chapter 7.
Daniel 9:26-27 says,
“Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
The cutting off of Messiah (a phrase that means “to destroy or kill”) obviously refers to the death of Christ. After this, we are told “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” This refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans. Note that the passage is telling us certain important events were to happen after the 62 weeks (plus the seven weeks, or a total of 69 weeks): the crucifixion of Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by the Romans who are the people of the prince who is to come. Because these events were to occur after the 69 weeks had run their course and before the seventieth week began, there must be a space of time between the conclusion of the sixty-ninth week and the beginning of the seventieth; this is the church age we are in today.
Note that it is not the “prince who will come” that destroys the city and sanctuary or temple, etc., but “the people of the prince.” There is no question that this was done by the Romans. But the passage does speak of “a prince who will come” and we are told he is “of the people,” suggesting the prince belongs to the people who destroy the city and temple. The normal, natural way to understand this is that he is a Roman, one who is of these people. When you combine this with chapter 7, it seems to verify this is the case.
Verse 27 informs us, “and he will make a firm covenant . . .” The “he,” (a change from the plural “they” to the singular “he”) in context, must surely refer to the prince spoken of in verse 26, the prince of the people who would destroy the city, etc. Again, since it was the Romans who destroyed the city, this suggests he is a Roman. This prince will make a seven year (one week) covenant with Israel guaranteeing them peace and safety and temporarily settling the Arab/Israeli dispute, but in the middle (at the 3 1/2 mark) he will break the covenant and demonstrate his true colors, that of a satanically indwelt beast, the Antichrist. This is the abomination of desolation which Christ spoke of as occurring in the midst of the tribulation. What the Roman’s did in 70 AD was only a foretaste, the near view of the final fulfillment in the time of the Tribulation or Daniel’s 70th week. The description that we are given in Matthew certainly goes far beyond anything that occurred in the time of Rome’s invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
For instance, Ryrie, in his Study Bible says, “The prince of verse 26, the Antichrist previously introduced in 7:8, 24-26, who will make a pact with many (of the Jewish people) at the beginning of the tribulation period. But in the middle of the week (i.e., 3 1/2 years later) Antichrist will break his covenant and desecrate the Temple by demanding worship of himself in it. See notes on Matt. 24:15 and 2 Thess. 2:4.
Here is his comment on Matt. 24:15:
ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION. This is the man of sin (2 Thess. 2:4), the Antichrist, who at this midpoint in the Tribulation breaks the covenant he made with the Jewish people at the beginning of the Tribulation (Dan. 9:27) and demands that they and the world worship him. Those who resist will be persecuted, and many will be martyred; that is the reason for the urgency of the instructions in verses 16-22.
The point is that a careful study of Daniel compared with Revelation shows us that the Antichrist will be someone who will rise up out of the ruins of the Old Roman empire that will be restored in the form a 10 nation confederation, much like the common market today. While the false prophet could be a Jew, the Antichrist seems to be a Roman. As Antichrist, his primary character is that of being against Christ. Jump ahead in the Revelation study to the material on chapter 17, especially verses 8f. This gives an historical sketch of the nations and might help see some of the issues here.
This is but a brief explanation, but I hope it helps somewhat. John Walvoord’s book, Daniel, the Key to Prophetic Revelation, would provide an excellent companion to your study of Revelation because so much of Revelation has its roots in Daniel. Also helpful would be the Old Testament volume of The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Walvoord does the Daniel portion and it is obviously a much shorter coverage of the material.
Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)