“The 10 horns (kings) of Revelation 17 came and went more than 1900 years ago.”
Among those who believe in a future fulfillment of the book of Revelation, there has long been an interest in linking the 10 horns (10 kings) of Revelation 17 to political partnerships in Europe, especially the European Union. Gary DeMar, an author and Bible prophecy teacher, pointed out in an article this week that the well-known Oswald J. Smith made the following prediction in 1927:
“Ten nations, no more, no less, are to become allied and known as the Roman empire because Rome will be the centre, the capital, and it will be in Rome that the Emperor will reign.”
Hal Lindsey also assured readers of The Late Great Planet Earth (1970) that “a ten nation confederacy” (pp. 96-97) would form in Europe by 1980, in order to set the stage for Revelation 17 (and Daniel 2) to be fulfilled. Of course, this topic has come to light again this week because of the Brexit referendum and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. The Babylon Bee, a satire site, posted an article suggesting that dispensationalists are frantically adjusting their prophecy charts to include the Brexit vote. Another satire article posted in “The End Times” states that dispensationalist Christians are shocked, disappointed, angry, and depressed over this news.
What happens in this world is important, but all this speculation about how the European Union might fit into Bible prophecy is a waste of time. The 10 horns (kings) of Revelation 17 came and went more than 1900 years ago.
John’s Vision of a Harlot, a Beast, and 10 Horns
In Revelation 17, John had a vision of a harlot that was about to be judged (verse 1). John saw the harlot sitting on a beast with seven heads and 10 horns (verse 3), and the woman was “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (verse 6).
The harlot is also referred to as “the great city” a number of times in Revelation (e.g. 11:8, 14:8, 16:19, 17:18, 18:10, 18:18). This title was first given to Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8, where it was said to be the place “where also our Lord was crucified.” Jerusalem and the Second Temple were burned with fire in 70 AD after a 5-month siege, as predicted in Revelation 17:16; 18:8-9, 18. This was God’s judgment upon the harlot drunk with the blood of His saints (17:1, 6). As outlined in another post, “The Avenging of Righteous Blood (Deuteronomy, Matthew, and Revelation),”
1. Moses prophesied that God would “avenge the blood of His servants” upon a faithless, perverse, and crooked generation at the time of Israel’s “latter end” (Deuteronomy 32:5, 20, 29, 43).
2. Jesus repeatedly denounced His own generation as “perverse”, “faithless”, and “adulterous.” Paul told the Philippian church that they were shining as lights in the midst of “a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:14-15).
3. Jesus told the religious leaders of Israel that their generation would be held responsible and judged for all the righteous blood shed on earth (Matthew 23:29-36).
4. John was shown a scene of martyrs crying out for their blood to soon be avenged “on those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 6:10).
5. John then saw seven bowls poured out “on the earth” (Rev. 16:1), and one of them caused the rivers and springs to become blood in order to judge those who had “shed the blood of saints and prophets” (Rev. 16:4-6).
6. John also saw a harlot dressed like a high priest of Israel and “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17:3-6).
7. In Revelation 18:19-24, John saw the great city…overthrown and made desolate (see Matthew 23:38). The holy prophets and apostles, and all of heaven, were told to rejoice over this scene because God had avenged them on her, and because “in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.“
John describes a scarlet 7-headed, 10-horned beast which carries the harlot. Its seven heads are identified in Rev. 17:10 as seven kings, five of whom had fallen, one that was, and one that would soon come, but only briefly. John was also told that “the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to destruction” (Rev. 17:11).
These seven kings were the high priests of the house of Annas (Ananus). Annas, his five sons, and his son-in-law monopolized the position of High Priest from about the time of Jesus’ birth until Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD (verse 10). The first five had died, the sixth one was still alive, and the seventh, Ananus, was about to rule. He only ruled for three months. Here is the list of the seven high priests of the house of Ananus, and the years that they reigned. The five sons of Ananus are #2, #4, #5, #6, and #7:
1 Ananus (or Annas) the son of Seth (6–15 AD)
2 Eleazar the son of Ananus (16–17 AD)
3 Joseph, the son of Caiaphas (18–36 AD); he was the son-in-law of Ananus
4 Jonathan the son of Ananus (36–37 AD and 44 AD)
5 Theophilus the son of Ananus (37–41 AD)
6 Matthias the son of Ananus (43 AD)
7 Ananus the son of Ananus (62 AD)
“The eighth” was Matthias, the grandson of Annas, and he was “also of the seven” because he was part of that family lineage (verse 11). He ruled as high priest from 65-66 AD and was murdered when the Jewish Zealots sieged the temple.
See this post for more details on these things.
The 10 Horns
In Revelation 17:7-18, an angel explained the meaning of the vision, and he described the 10 horns in this way:
“And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them…” (Revelation 17:12-14).
All of John’s visions were concerning “things which must shortly take place” because “the time [was] near” (Revelation 1:1-3; 22:6, 10). In War of the Jews (Book 2, Chapter 20), Josephus listed exactly 10 high priests and religious leaders in Israel who were given authority as generals from early 67 AD until Jerusalem’s downfall 3.5 years later.
Here’s some important historical background which shows why these generals were appointed at that time. This information can be found in the works of Josephus (e.g. Wars 2.20.1) and Roman historians like Suetonius (The Twelve Caesars, Vespasian 4), Tacitus (The Histories V), and Dio Cassius. (This is abbreviated; a longer version can be seen in this post.)
Summer 66 AD
During the summer of 66 AD a group of Jewish zealots and revolutionaries, who were opposed to Rome, took control of the Jerusalem temple. Josephus says that the Jewish/Roman War officially began in August 66 AD when Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, “who was at that time governor of the Temple, persuaded those that officiated in the divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner.” They used this new law to reject “the sacrifice of Caesar” (Wars 2.17.2). They also massacred a Roman garrison stationed at the Antonia Fortress on the east side of Jerusalem (Wars 2.17.7).
November 66 AD
In November 66 AD Cestius Gallus brought the 12th Legion to put down the Jewish rebellion. He plundered and burned the city of Zebulon in Galilee, then moved south to surround Jerusalem. He arrived when most of Judea was gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Surprisingly, his army suffered about 5,700 deaths, his weapons and supplies were stolen during an ambush, they retreated from Jerusalem on November 22nd, and hundreds were chased and killed by Jewish rebels over the next five days. This gave many Jews confidence that they could overcome any Roman army, believing heaven was with them.
Josephus Lists 10 Newly Appointed Jewish Generals
The following information is taken from Josephus’ War of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 20:
The Jewish religious leaders and nationalists knew that a full-scale Roman revenge was inevitable. (Indeed Nero officially declared war against Israel in February 67 AD, sending Vespasian as his general. See Revelation 6:1-2.) So these Jewish leaders “got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war” (Wars 2.20.3). As Josephus reveals, exactly 10 generals were appointed and some of them were high priests (this is from sections 3-4 of Wars 2.20):
3. But as to those who had pursued after Cestius, when they were returned back to Jerusalem, they overbore some of those that favored the Romans by violence, and some them persuaded [by en-treaties] to join with them, and got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war. Joseph also, the son of Gorion, and Ananus the high priest, were chosen as governors of all affairs within the city, and with a particular charge to repair the walls of the city; for they did not ordain Eleazar the son of Simon to that office, although he had gotten into his possession the prey they had taken from the Romans, and the money they had taken from Cestius, together with a great part of the public treasures, because they saw he was of a tyrannical temper, and that his followers were, in their behavior, like guards about him. However, the want they were in of Eleazar’s money, and the subtle tricks used by him, brought all so about, that the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs.
4. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command.
Here’s a list of these 10 generals and the territories they were to oversee in preparation for war with Rome:
1. Joseph, the son of Gorion (Governor of Jerusalem)
2. Ananus, the high priest (Governor of Jerusalem)
3. Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests (Idumaea)
4. Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest (Idumaea)
5. Niger, the then governor of Idumea (Idumaea)
6. Joseph, the son of Simon (Jericho)
7. Manasseh (Perea)
8. John, the Esscue (toparchy of Thamna; “Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus”)
9. John, the son of Matthias (toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene)
10. Josephus, the son of Matthias (both the Galilees; “Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command”)
They Receive Authority for One Hour
It’s stated in Revelation 17:12-13 that “they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.” The phrase “one hour” is used again three times in Revelation 18, each time to describe the judgment of the great city, the harlot, Babylon the great:
“And the kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come‘” (Rev. 18:9-10).
“For in one hour such great riches came to nothing…” (Rev. 18:17).
“…For in one hour she is made desolate” (Rev. 18:19).
Both Daniel and Revelation speak of a 3.5 year time frame of judgment, repeatedly using terms like “42 months”, “1260 days,” and “a time, times, and half a time.” During this time Israel experienced seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments. It was 3.5 years from the time that Nero declared war on Jerusalem in February 67 AD until the city and its temple were destroyed and burned in August 70 AD. This is also how long the ten kings, the generals listed by Josephus, kept their authority. So it seems that in Revelation 17:12; 18:10, 17, 19, “one hour” = 3.5 years.
These Will Make War with the Lamb
In Revelation 17:14 we read, “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord or lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”
Jesus made war against the harlot/great city and He used the Roman army as His instrument. Probably the clearest indication of this fact can be seen in The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14). When the king (God) arranged a marriage for his son (Jesus), those who were invited refused to come, and some even mistreated and killed the king’s servants. Jesus went on to say, “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (verse 7). We also know that Jesus promised to come in judgment within the lifetime of His disciples, and in their own generation (Matthew 16:27-28, I Thessalonians 2:14-16, II Thessalonians 1:6-8, James 5:8-9, Revelation 22:12, etc.).
So when these 10 generals (high priests among them) attempted to defeat the Romans and maintain Jerusalem as the center of the old covenant system which Jesus had already made obsolete (Hebrews 8:6, 13, etc.), this was nothing less than war against Jesus Himself. There’s evidence that they even knew this and warred against Jesus intentionally, as they called to mind His predictions that Jerusalem would be destroyed in that generation.
When Jesus said, “the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it…on whomever [this stone] falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:43-44), the chief priests and Pharisees knew He was speaking of them (verse 45).
When James, the brother of Jesus, was martyred in 62 AD with the approval of the high priest, Ananus, these were James’ last words: “Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.” The Pharisees responded, “We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus.”
In 70 AD, during the 5-month siege on Jerusalem which ultimately caused its downfall, the 10thLegion of the Romans launched white boulders as heavy as 100 pounds over the city walls into Jerusalem (see Revelation 16:21). They were catapulted from Roman engines from up to a quarter mile away. Josephus records that the watchmen on the wall, if they saw them coming, would shout, “The Son cometh!” After a while the Romans learned to blacken the stones so that they couldn’t as easily be detected, and then many were crushed by these stones. J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book, The Parousia, offered this explanation (p. 482):
“It could not but be well known to the Jews that the great hope and faith of the Christians was the speedy coming of the Son. It was about this very time, according to Hegesippus [110-180 AD], that St. James, the brother of our Lord, publicly testified in the temple that ‘the Son of man was about to come in the clouds of heaven,’ and then sealed his testimony with his blood. It seems highly probable that the Jews, in their defiant and desperate blasphemy, when they saw the white mass hurtling though the air, raised the ribald cry, ‘The Son is coming,’ in mockery of the Christian hope of the Parousia.”
And the Lamb Will Overcome Them
These 10 generals, the 10 horns, were of one mind. They thought they could use their own power and authority to prevent Jesus’ predictions from coming true. They thought they could maintain power over the great temple and their prosperous old covenant system. Of course, they failed and all of them perished or were captured. The words of God were fulfilled (Revelation 17:17). They made war with the Lamb, but the Lamb overcame.
The 10 Horns Turned on the Harlot
Revelation 17:16 says, “And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”
See the final section of this post to see how Josephus likened Jerusalem in 67-70 AD to a wild beast that had gone mad and was eating its own flesh.
The 10 horns have nothing to do with Brexit, the European Union, or the 21st century. We don’t have to worry about them coming on the scene in our day. They played their role and “fulfill[ed] His purpose” (Rev. 17:17) many centuries ago, at the end of the old covenant age in the first century AD.