The Seven Heads and Ten Horns

On three separate occasions, Revelation makes reference to “beasts” that have a common description: they all have seven heads and ten horns (Rev 12:3, Rev 13:1, Rev 17:3).

This peculiar description clearly must have some meaning, and fortunately this is one of the few cases where Revelation provides an explanation for its own imagery. There are also some passages from Old Testament prophets that help complete the picture of what the seven heads and ten horns represent.

The Dragon of Chapter 12

The first reference is in chapter 12:

Rev 12:3-4 – 3Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

Rev 12:9 – And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

The seven heads and ten horns belong to a “dragon”, and verse 9 identifies the dragon as Satan. From this, we know at least that this imagery implies a Satanic connection. We can thus expect that the other references to seven heads and ten horns will likewise refer to something Satanic.

We will come back to discuss the significance of the dragon’s seven heads and ten horns later on, after we’ve developed an understanding of what this imagery represents.

The Composite Beast of Chapter 13

The second reference is in chapter 13:

Rev 13:1-8 – 1And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.

2And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. 3I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast 4they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” 5There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.

7It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. 8All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

Here, the seven heads and ten horns belong a “beast coming up out of the sea”, apparently coming up in response to the dragon (Satan) who is present on the seashore. Verse 5 says this beast would be given 42 months (or 3 1/2 years) to oppose God and God’s people, confirming a Satanic purpose.

In verse 2, this beast is said to have the appearance of a leopard, a bear, and a lion. No explanation is given for these animal references, which is a clue telling us to see if this imagery is used in the Old Testament. Indeed, this imagery directs us to Daniel 7:1-7, where the prophet Daniel describes a vision he received. In his vision, he saw four beasts rising from the sea. The first three were (1) a lion, (2) a bear, and (3) a leopard. These were followed by a “fourth beast different from the others” — and it had ten horns.

There can be little doubt that Revelation 13 and Daniel 7 are referring to the same things, and the intention is that our understanding of Revelation 13 will be illuminated by first understanding Daniel’s prophecy.

To summarize, Daniel’s vision progressed as follows:

  • Daniel sees the first three (lion, bear, and leopard) beasts rising from the sea (Dan 7:1-6).
  • Daniel sees a dreadful fourth beast, different from the others, and it had ten horns (Dan 7:7).
  • Out from the ten horns, Daniel saw a “little horn” who uttered great boasts (Dan 7:8).
  • God will appear with intent to judge (Dan 7:9,10).
  • The fourth beast shall be slain (Dan 7:11).
  • The other (first three) beasts will have their lives extended at an appointed time (Dan 7:12).
  • Christ returns to set up the kingdom of God on earth (Dan 7:13,14).

Please note the comment about the other beasts in Dan 7:12 – “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.”  The “rest of the beasts” are the lion, the bear, and the leopard, which are the same three beasts mentioned in Revelation 13. We may thus conclude that the end times is the “appointed period of time” in which these three beasts have their “extension of life“.

After receiving this vision, Daniel asked the angel for an explanation, and it was given to him:

Dan 7:17-18 – 17‘These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. 18‘But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’

So, we see that the beasts represent kings (and hence, their kingdoms) that will actually appear on earth. In the context of Daniel, it is not difficult to know exactly what these four kingdoms are, because this vision parallels a dream that Daniel interpreted in chapter 2, and some of the kingdoms are actually mentioned by name in other visions described in chapters 8 and 10.

  1. The first kingdom (the lion) is Babylon (Dan 2:36-38).
  2. The second kingdom (the bear) is Persia (Dan 2:39, Dan 8:20, Dan 10:13)
  3. The third kingdom (the leopard) is Greece (Dan 2:39, Dan 8:21, Dan 10:20)
  4. The fourth kingdom (more fierce than the others, with ten horns) is Rome (Dan 2:40-43)

Now, remember that these kingdoms are somehow associated with the seven-headed and ten-horned beast in Revelation 13, which implies a Satanic connection. As we should then expect, the four kingdoms in Daniel’s vision would be characterized by their opposition to God. Indeed, besides being idolatrous, there was one main attribute that these four kingdoms all had in common: They each dominated and persecuted God’s people Israel for a period of time.

To quickly summarize these four kingdoms:

  1. Babylon, under Nebuchadnezzar, sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. They killed many thousands of Jews and took thousands more into captivity. This attack ended the earthly reign of Israel’s kingdom that descended from David. Israel’s kingdom won’t be restored until Christ (David’s descendant and heir to his throne) returns.
  2. Persia, under Cyrus the Great, Darius and Artaxerxes, was in many ways benevolent toward Israel, allowing them to return to Judah and rebuild. However, Israel was still under Persian rule, and it was during this time they narrowly escaped Haman’s wicked plans to have the Jews exterminated (all described in the book of Esther).
  3. Greece, after the death of Alexander the Great, was divided and the eventual ruler in Judea was a man named Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who turned out to be a preview of Antichrist. He defiled the temple and sought to destroy the Jewish religion. (He is described in Dan 8:21-26 and Dan 11:21-45; see The Antichrist for more information about him).
  4. Rome indeed stood out as different and more severe than the others. It was under Roman rule that the promised Christ finally appeared. A direct attempt to murder him was made at birth when Herod ordered all the baby boys in the vicinity of Bethlehem to be killed (Matt 2:16-18). Later, it was Rome that carried out the crucifixion of Christ (John 19:15-16). In 70 AD, Rome sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple, killing about a quarter-million Jews and enslaving 90,000 more. In 135 AD, Rome (under emperor Hadrian) waged war on the Jews and killed over half a million of them. Of course, besides persecuting God’s people Israel, the Roman empire became the first kingdom to persecute God’s people, the Christians.

Returning to Daniel 7, we see that Daniel asked for a further explanation of the fourth beast and the ten horns (Dan 7:19-22), and he was given the following:

Dan 7:23-27 – 23“Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. 24As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. 25‘He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26‘But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 27‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’

Here we see that out of the fourth kingdom (Rome), there shall eventually emerge ten kings (represented by the ten horns). Afterwards, another king will emerge (contemporary with the first ten) who will oppose God and God’s people for a time, times, and half a time, which is the period that follows the abomination at the midpoint of the seven-year end times period (Dan 12:7,11). This is clearly the same person being described as the first beast in Revelation 13 who makes war with the saints and overcomes them for 42 months. This is Antichrist.

Revelation 13 symbolically links Antichrist with the kingdoms mentioned in Daniel 7, suggesting that Antichrist’s kingdom will share the combined characteristics of those previous kingdoms. The impression given is that Antichrist shall be Satan’s masterpiece, the supreme Satanic earthly king.

The Fatal Wound That Healed

Note that Rev 13:3 remarks the composite beast has one head that appears to have have been slain, but the fatal wound had healed. Later, this fatal wound is referenced in Rev 13:12-15, where it indicates that the beast shall be killed (suffer a fatal wound) and then be brought back to life. This “death and resurrection” is certainly reminiscent of the work of Christ, which itself happens to be referenced in this chapter (Rev 13:8).

What do these death and resurrection references mean with regard to the beast? I think it helps to understand that each beast (both in Revelation and Daniel) represents both a kingdom and its king. The notion of “death and resurrection” can, and I believe does, apply to both.

  • Death and resurrection of a kingdom – In Dan 7:11, we read that the fourth beast of Daniel’s vision (Rome) was slain, and yet in Dan 7:23-24 we read that ten kings will arise from it, and the “little horn” (Antichrist) shall arise among them. We may thus say that the fourth kingdom itself has, in this sense, attained a new life, or resurrection.
  • Death and resurrection of a king – We read about how the False Prophet will lead people to worship the beast, and in this context the word beast refers to the individual Antichrist, who serves as Satan’s final king (Rev 13:2), and who persecutes the saints for 42 months (Rev 13:5,7). He is also described as having a fatal wound from a sword (Rev 13:12,14), and yet he was returned to life as one of the “great signs” performed by the False Prophet. In this sense, the future Antichrist himself will appear to have a death and resurrection, as appropriate for a counterfeit Christ.

The Scarlet Beast of Chapter 17

The third reference is in chapter 17:

Rev 17:3 –  3And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.

Here, the seven heads and ten horns belong to a “scarlet beast”. This chapter gives extensive additional information about the meaning of the seven heads and ten horns. For one thing, they are associated with idolatry (the harlot who sits on the beast represents idolatry, as discussed in The Great Harlot and Babylon). Then, starting in verse 9, we are given an important explanation of what the heads and horns represent.

Rev 17:9-11 – 9“Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. 11“The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction.

With the information gained from the references in chapters 12 and 13, we are ready to approach the explanation given here in Revelation 17. We will break this explanation into its key parts:

9“Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10and they are seven kings;

The key point is the understanding of “mountains”. Are these literally seven (geological) mountains, or do they symbolize something else? Given that the seven mountains are also seven kings suggests something other than literal mountains. But we should look to see if scripture ever uses mountains in a figurative way that also makes sense when associated with kings.

Indeed, the word mountain is often used figuratively in scripture, and in all such cases, the mountain always represents a kingdom (e.g. Isa 2:2, Dan 2:35,45, Jer 51:24-26, Psalm 68:16, Ezek 35:2, Heb 12:22). Certainly, kingdoms go hand-in-glove with kings, and for this reason, I believe it is best to understand “mountains” as a symbol for the kingdoms that correspond to the kings. This idea is further corroborated by the fact that this passage is explaining the scarlet beast, and we know from our discussion of Daniel 7 above that beasts are used to represent kings and their kingdoms.

The passage continues with this summary of the seven kings and kingdoms:

10 … five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.

This tells us that the kings and kingdoms represented by the seven heads are seven actual kingdoms on earth that rise and fall at various times:

  • five have fallen – That is, at the time that John received this vision, the first five kingdoms had already come and gone (they are discussed below).
  • one is – This says that the sixth kingdom was actively in power at the time John received his vision. From this, we know that this sixth kingdom must be the Roman Empire.
  • the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while – The seventh kingdom must come some time after the Roman Empire falls. Also, it is emphasized that the king of this kingdom must remain a little while, which I take to mean a relatively short time. We’ll discuss this kingdom below.

The First Six Satanic Kingdoms

From the discussion above, we know that the sixth kingdom is Rome, and combining this knowledge with the list of four Satanically influenced kingdoms we identified in Daniel 7 (in which the fourth kingdom was Rome), we can begin to put together a partial list of the seven kingdoms represented by the seven heads:

  1. (undetermined — first of the five fallen)
  2. (undetermined — second of the five fallen)
  3. Babylon (first beast of Daniel 7 — third of the five fallen)
  4. Persia (second beast of Daniel 7 — fourth of the five fallen)
  5. Greece (third beast of Daniel 7 — fifth of the five fallen)
  6. Rome (fourth beast of Daniel 7 — the kingdom that is)
  7. (undetermined — has not yet come, but will come and remain for a little while)

Now, of the kingdoms referenced as the “five have fallen” in verse 10, we can see that the final three of those five fallen kingdoms must be Babylon, Persia, and Greece.

But what could the first two of those five fallen kingdoms be? We can answer this by deducing that the first two kingdoms must share the same characteristics common to the four mentioned by Daniel. That is, in order to be included in this list of kingdoms, the first two kingdoms must meet these requirements:

  • They must be two actual kingdoms on earth.
  • They must both be in power at different times prior to the third kingdom (Babylon).
  • They must both be known for dominating and persecuting God’s people Israel.

Does the Bible speak of two such kingdoms? Yes.

  1. Egypt — Early in Israel’s history, the Jews settled in the land of Egypt and their numbers grew. However, as explained in Exodus 1, the Egyptian Pharaohs turned against Israel and forced Israel to do hard labor as slaves for about four centuries.
  2. Assyria — After being given their promised land and flourishing for centuries under self-rule, the northern kingdom of Israel, comprising ten of the twelve tribes of Israel, fell to the invasion by Assyria. Their land was plundered and Jews were taken into captivity (see 2 Kings 17). Later, Assyria threatened the same against the southern kingdom of Israel (Judah), but Judah was spared only by direct interference by God (see 2 Kings 18 and 19).

At this point, we know the first six kingdoms symbolized by the seven heads. They are as follows:

  1. Egypt (first of the five fallen)
  2. Assyria (second of the five fallen)
  3. Babylon (first beast of Daniel 7 — third of the five fallen)
  4. Persia (second beast of Daniel 7 — fourth of the five fallen)
  5. Greece (third beast of Daniel 7 — fifth of the five fallen)
  6. Rome (fourth beast of Daniel 7 — the kingdom that is)
  7. (undetermined — has not yet come, but will come and remain for a little while)

The Eighth Satanic Kingdom

Revelation 17 continues in a somewhat surprising way:

11“The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction.

Here, we learn that beyond the seven kings and kingdoms associated with the seven heads, there shall be yet another eighth kingdom, and it is also the last. Being the final Satanic kingdom, this eighth king and kingdom must be the kingdom of Antichrist, which is represented by the composite beast that we saw in Revelation 13.

That composite beast is here referred to as the beast which “was and is not, (yet) is”. More is said about him by the following verse:

Rev 17:8 – The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.”

This is clearly the same beast of Rev 13:1 who came up out of the sea (or abyss), of which Rev 13:8 said, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain“. As you can see, this eighth beast and the Antichrist beast of Revelation 13 share the same description, nearly word for word. Also, Rev 17:8 and Rev 17:11 stress that he is going to his destruction, which agrees with Dan 7:26, Dan 9:27, and other prophecies concerning the fate of Antichrist.

The curious phrase “was, and is not, (yet) is” is rather remarkable. It implies something that existed, passed away, but then returned. Remember that the heads of the beast represent both kings and their kingdoms (see discussion of verse 9 above). It seems that this expression applies to both, although in somewhat different ways:

  • As a king, “was, is not, is” seems to describe the Antichrist beast of chapter 13, who had “a fatal wound which had healed” (Rev 13:12). For him, “was, is not, is” refers to a living person, killed, and yet returns to life.
  • As a kingdom, “was, is not, is” describes the re-emergence of the ancient kingdoms described by Daniel, and referenced in Revelation 13. Specifically, it refers to Daniel’s first three kingdoms that would return to life at an appointed time (Dan 7:12). Also, it seems to describe the Roman Empire (Daniel’s fourth beast) which passed away long ago, and yet it will produce ten kings from which Antichrist will emerge (Dan 7:24-25). For this kingdom, “was, is not, is” refers to an effective re-emergence of those Satanically inspired kingdoms that had fallen.

Interestingly, verse 11 says that Antichrist is “one of the seven”. These words imply that:

  • Antichrist’s eighth kingdom shall, in some sense, be a continuation of the previous seven kings and kingdoms in terms of likeness. This agrees with the composite description of Antichrist given in Revelation 13, as well as the “was, is not, is” phrase discussed above.
  • Antichrist’s kingdom shall belong with the previous seven, in that it shall likewise dominate and persecute God’s people. In Antichrist’s case, we know that this pertains to both Christians and Israel, although a remnant of Israel shall be divinely protected (Rev 12:13-16).

This discussion of the seven heads and ten horns in Revelation 17 concludes with this:

Rev 17:12-14 – 12“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 13“These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. 14“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.

This makes it clear that the ten horns (1) symbolize ten kings who would arise on earth, (2) that they would be contemporaries of Antichrist, and (3) that they would take part in the final losing battle against the Lamb (described in Rev 14:14-20, Rev 16:13-16 and Rev 19:11-21). This all agrees with the ten kings symbolized by the ten horns in Dan 7:8 and Dan 7:24.

The Seventh Satanic Kingdom

Our list of Satanically inspired kingdoms (represented by the seven heads, plus the eighth added in Rev 17:11) is nearly complete. So far, it stands as follows:

  1. Egypt
  2. Assyria
  3. Babylon
  4. Persia
  5. Greece
  6. Rome
  7. (undetermined)
  8. Antichrist’s kingdom

Only the seventh kingdom remains unresolved. Can we say with any confidence that this seventh kingdom has already appeared on earth, or should we still be watching for it?

Recall what Rev 17:10 said about the seventh king: “the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.” In order to satisfy this prophecy and be consistent with all of the other kingdoms included in this list, the seventh king and kingdom must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Timing – It must appear on earth sometime after the sixth kingdom (Rome), and yet sometime before the eighth kingdom (Antichrist).
  • Activity – Like all of the other kingdoms on this list, it must dominate and persecute God’s people (either Israel, Christians, or both).
  • Duration – It must (according to Rev 17:10), appear for a “little while”, suggesting that the reign of the seventh king and kingdom will be short when compared to the previous six kingdoms. Also, the fact that this king is able to even “qualify” to be on the same list with these first six kingdoms suggests that his kingdom must be especially hostile to God’s people to compensate for the fact that it has only a short time to do so.
  • Satanic – It must be arguably describable as a Satanically influenced kingdom, promoting some sort of idolatry among other evil intents.
  • Biblical Significance – As with the other kingdoms, it should alter the course of history in a manner that fulfills Biblical prophecy.

Given these requirements, I believe that the seventh kingdom has already appeared on the earth, and that it was none other than the Nazi regime led by Adolph Hitler during World War II.

If you read other Revelation commentaries, you will probably notice that this opinion is relatively uncommon. However, I would like to point out that many of the eschatological views commonly held by people today were shaped by commentaries written before World War II.

Please note that Hitler and his Nazi Regime “kingdom” fulfilled the above requirements perfectly:

  • Timing – Hitler obviously fulfills the timing requirements. Clearly after Rome, and yet before Antichrist.
  • Activity – Hitler surely dominated and persecuted Israel. In fact, we should ask ourselves: If God is making a list of kingdoms that have dominated and persecuted the nation Israel, how could that list not include Hitler’s Nazi regime? About six million Jews were murdered, accounting for the slaughter of about one third of the entire world’s Jewish population at that time.
  • Duration – Hitler fulfilled the “little while” requirement in that his reign of terror was relatively short. The Nazis only held power for about twelve years, whereas the the previous six kingdoms had durations that could be measured in hundreds of years. It took the Nazis only about seven years (the 1939-1945 Holocaust) to murder the six million Jews. Without a doubt, the Nazis outdid each of the six earlier kingdoms in terms sheer murderous efficiency against Israel.
  • Satanic – Without question. The Nazis used deception to mask their true intentions (e.g. the “Work will set you free” sign greeting the Jews who arrived at Nazi death camps). Large numbers of people were influenced to either violate their conscience or lose it altogether. Consequently, they engaged in wickedness to a degree and on a scale that we might never have imagined possible in a civilized society. Also, those who might have been expected to assist the innocent victims — and this includes many within the churches — stood by silently. From a religious standpoint, the Nazis promoted what they called “Positive Christianity”, which was an utterly corrupted distortion of true Christianity (see Wikipedia article). Christians who opposed it found themselves classified as a subversive group, and they faced persecution themselves.
  • Biblical Significance – As a consequence of the Nazi Holocaust, a most remarkable thing happened. It created a rare period of deep sympathy toward the surviving Jewish population, and this paved the way for the nation Israel to regain a state of self-rule in their Biblical homeland, which started May 14, 1948. In a sense, they regained much of what they lost in the Babylonian invasion about 2,500 years earlier. I believe that this re-gathering of Israel in their Biblical land is a fulfillment of prophecy (e.g. Isa 66:8, Ezek 37:21,22, Jer 16:14,15, Amos 9:14,15).

Note that Israel’s re-emergence in their homeland also opens the door for a literal fulfillment of the end times prophecies that speak about Israel living in their land.

Prior to World War II, it seemed impossible that a literal fulfillment could be correct after so many centuries of Israel being scattered and powerless. I believe that for this reason, Christian theologians devised several philosophies for how Revelation (and other end-times prophecies) could be fulfilled in non-literal ways. This is why we have Preterism, Historicism, Postmillennialism. Amillennialism, Idealism, and other eschatological views that require the prophecies to be fulfilled in “symbolic” or “mystical” ways.

Speculation: During the Nazi holocaust against the Jews, about one third of Israel’s population was murdered and they received little help from the rest of the world. This is just a thought, but I do notice that during the trumpet events, God will be destroying about one third of the rest of the world, while He helps His people Israel. Perhaps this relationship is just a coincidence, but it seems like sort of a poetic justice too.

Returning to the Dragon of Revelation 12

We now have an understanding that the seven heads represent seven actual idolatrous kingdoms that appeared on earth, which at various times served Satan’s purposes by dominating and persecuting God’s people. These kingdoms are, (1) Egypt, (2) Assyria, (3) Babylon, (4) Persia, (5) Greece, (6) Rome, and (7) Hitler’s Nazi regime (as I proposed above).

If this understanding is correct, then it should help explain the meaning of the “seven-headed dragon” as depicted in Revelation 12:

Rev 12:4 – And the dragon (with seven heads and ten horns) stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

The imagery of verse 4 depicts a dragon, lying in wait before the woman (Israel), with intent to kill her child (Christ) at birth. That’s the imagery, but how did Satan (the dragon) do this in actuality?

History shows that he did this by raising up idolatrous kingdoms that would dominate and threaten Israel. We see this in Pharaoh’s armies, the Assyrian captivity and Sennacherib’s threats against Judah, Nebuchadnezzar taking Israel into captivity, Haman’s attempt to destroy Israel during the Persian empire, the attack by Antiochus Epiphanes IV in the waning years of the Greek empire, and of course, Herod’s decree to kill children in the vicinity of Bethlehem, where Christ was born during the Roman Empire.

As the birth of Messiah neared, these kingdoms came one right after the other. With all of these mighty kingdoms threatening little Israel, it’s astounding (from a human standpoint) that they still exist as a nation. One can almost see God’s hand of protection upon Israel. However, with these kingdoms, one can also see Satan making a frantic effort to destroy the child that would be borne of Israel.

So why would Satan be so intent on wanting to destroy the Christ at birth?

Going back to Genesis, we see that after Adam and Eve sinned, God cursed Satan (the serpent – or dragon). The final remark of that curse was:

Gen 3:15 – And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.

This is God informing Satan that he will be destroyed. Satan’s destruction would be carried out by a man, although Satan would also cause temporal injury to that man. This man called the “seed of the woman” is an early reference to the promised Messiah. This reference makes it clear that he would be a man born of a woman upon earth. In time, it became clear that this man would be born from God’s chosen people, Israel.

Having been made aware of this curse, Satan has every motivation to try to avoid his own doom by by attempting to destroy the Messiah first. Thus we see him, lying in wait by influencing one kingdom after another to dominate and persecute Israel, in hopes of destroying the seed of the woman.

In the account of Christ’s birth, we do we see Satan’s attempt to “devour her child” in Herod’s command to kill all male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem (Matt 2:16), but that failed. Satan then attempted to destroy Christ through temptation (Matt 4:1). but that also failed. Shortly afterwards, there was another attempt to kill Christ (Luke 4:29-30), but that failed as well.

Satan did eventually succeed in getting Jesus killed under Roman rule. However, by that time he was too late because Jesus had accomplished his ministry (John 17:4-5). He had proclaimed the coming kingdom of God, and how sinners could be a peace with God and enter the kingdom. He had fulfilled all of the prophecies that confirmed that he was who he claimed to be. Christ wasn’t killed until the only prophecies left to be fulfilled were those relating to his death and resurrection (Psalm 22:14,15,16,17,18, Dan 9:26, Psalm 16:10, Isa 53:10). Even death was only a temporary suffering for Christ, and it only amounted to “bruising his heel”. In contrast, by fulfilling his ministry, Christ shall deliver a fatal blow to Satan (“bruise his head”).

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