In Daniel 2 one power arises after ancient Greece and exists until supernaturally destroyed at the end of the world (see Dan. 2:39-44). In Daniel 7 one power arises after ancient Greece and is supernaturally destroyed at the end (see Dan. 7:17-27). In the parallel chapter of Daniel 8, the same thing: one power arises after ancient Greece and is supernaturally destroyed at “the time of the end” (see Dan. 8:20-25).
What power arose after ancient Greece and must still exist to be supernaturally destroyed at the end? One that it cannot be is Antiochus Epiphanes IV, whose death in 164 B.C. rules him out as the final earthly power in Daniel 2, 7, and 8. And when Jesus Himself put events depicted by “Daniel the prophet” (Matt. 24:15) into the future, a personage dead almost two centuries before Jesus’ death can’t be the one who these chapters were referring to.
Only one fits. It arose after ancient Greece and is still here, and that is Rome, first pagan, then Papal Rome. (The Bible views Rome as one power.)
And because in Daniel 2, 7, and 8, the end of the world comes during the time of this power, Rome must exist until the end. In fact, Daniel 7 and 8 directly link the activities of Rome with the end (see Dan. 7:23-27; 8:23-25), which means that any “present truth” message about the end must deal with Papal Rome.
No wonder, then, that the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, the most “present” of truth, includes Rome. The first angel’s message is a call to “worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Rev. 14:7), in contrast to the warning of the third angel’s message against worship “of the beast and his image” (Rev. 14:9). In the preceding chapter, Revelation 13, the Roman power, symbolized as that beast (Rev. 13:1-10), is depicted not only as persecutor in the past (see Dan. 7 and 8) but as persecutor in the last days as well (see Rev. 13:1-17; 14:9).
But what about arguments that dismiss this all as a flawed focus, a distraction from Jesus the center?
The first angel’s message starts out with the “everlasting gospel” (Rev. 14:6), which alone puts Jesus at the foundation of “present truth.” The call in Revelation 14:7 is to worship our Creator, who is Jesus (see John 1:1-4), so again He’s at the center. Finally, the description of God’s people is those who “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12), showing how central Jesus Christ is to what we proclaim. Without Jesus at the center, we can no more preach the three angels’ messages than Christ’s second coming.
Meanwhile, those who complain about the emphasis on the beasts and horns should take up their complaint with the Holy Spirit, for that was the language and symbolism that He inspired Daniel and John to use. Scriptures talk about beasts and horns in the context of “present truth,” so how can we preach this truth without doing so as well?
How, though, could Rome ever fulfill its prophetic destiny? We haven’t been told how it will, but only that it will. Those old enough to remember the Cold War wondered how prophecy could be fulfilled with the Soviet Union, an anti-religious power, as a global hegemon? Even into the late 1980s Adventists had to believe—against common sense, reason, and everything that our eyes could see—that radical change would have to come to the Soviet Union, which (against reason, common sense, and everything that our eyes could see) it did, and fast, too.
Can we be so narrow and unimaginative as to not envision that other radical changes could usher in final events, even if these changes would seem to us now as unlikely as the fall of the Soviet Union did until it happened?
Sure, charlatans will continue to exploit the Pope’s every move and set dates in order to separate people from their money, and when those date pass without the predicted event, they will do it again. Despite the disrepute that these false prognosticators bring on us, their actions no more mean that the message is false than atrocities (crusades, wars, persecution) done in the name of Christ meant that Christ is false, either.
We have been called to preach the three angels’ messages “to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14: 6), and we can’t be faithful to that call without teaching what Bible prophecy reveals about Rome. Any “present truth” message, then, that doesn’t include Rome is not truth, no matter how “present” the message supposedly is.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His most recent book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is available from Pacific Press.