Part 7—The Last of the Great World Powers
When the Bible book of Revelation was written, almost 1,900 years ago, it said that five “kings,” or world powers, had already come and gone. These were Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The sixth, Rome, still ‘was,’ but the seventh had not yet arrived. (Revelation 17:10) What was that seventh world power? How did it come into existence? And what will follow it? The answers to these important questions are the subject of this article.
THE major outline of world history over the past 2,500 years was given in advance in the most widely circulated book that the world has ever known. Yet, relatively few people who have a copy of that book, the Bible, have any idea of the amazing information it contains.
For example, more than 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the prophet Daniel recorded a divinely inspired vision in which the great world powers since his time were represented by powerful beasts. Each beast had the characteristics of the world power it represented. The mighty Roman Empire was described as a huge beast “fearsome and terrible and unusually strong.” Daniel said that “it was something different from all the other beasts that were prior to it, and it had ten horns.”—Daniel 7:2-7.
The ‘Small Horn’
In time, the Roman Empire grew to cover an area that stretched from the British Isles down across much of Europe, all the way around the Mediterranean and beyond Babylon to the Persian Gulf. This mighty empire finally broke up into many nations—into the “ten horns” that Daniel saw.* Then Daniel saw that “another horn, a small one, came up in among them, and there were three of the first horns that were plucked up from before it.” (Daniel 7:8) What did this mean?
Daniel was told: “As for the ten horns, out of that [Roman] kingdom there are ten kings that will rise up; and still another one [the ‘small horn’] will rise up after them, and he himself will be different from the first ones, and three kings he will humiliate.” (Daniel 7:24) Who was the ‘small horn,’ and who were the three kings he humiliated?
An island up in the northwestern corner of the Roman Empire had long remained on the fringe of world affairs. As one historian explained: “In the sixteenth century, England had been a second-rate power. Its wealth was slight compared with that of the Netherlands. Its population was much less than that of France. Its armed forces (including its navy) were inferior to Spain’s.” However, England developed a naval fleet of some importance, and its pirates and privateers began raiding Spain’s colonies and her heavily laden treasure ships.
The Three Horns
In 1588 Phillip II of Spain launched the Spanish Armada against his English tormentors. This fleet of 130 ships carrying more than 24,000 men sailed slowly up the English Channel, only to fall victim to contrary winds and fierce Atlantic storms. In Modern Europe to 1870, historian Carlton Hayes writes that this event “marked the decisive passing of naval superiority from Spain to England.”
In the 17th century, the Dutch developed by far the largest merchant marine in the world. Their ships dominated the seas, and they lent their profits to governments far and wide. But with her growing overseas colonies, England prevailed here too.
Then, in the 18th century, the British and the French fought in such widely separated places as North America and India, leading to the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Concerning it, William B. Willcox wrote in his book Star of Empire—A Study of Britain as a World Power that although the treaty appeared to be a compromise, “actually it recognized Britain’s new position as the predominant European power in the world beyond Europe.”
Other historians agree, saying: “From two centuries of warfare with Spaniards, Dutch, and French, Great Britain emerged in 1763 as the foremost commercial and colonial power in the world.” (Modern Europe to 1870) “In 1763 the British Empire bestrode the world like some revived and enlarged Rome.” “She emerged from the midcentury wars the greatest empire and the strongest—and the most thoroughly hated—power in the world.” (Navy and Empire, by James L. Stokesbury) Yes, this ‘small horn’ had grown to become the seventh world power of Bible history.
Britons pressed up the Nile and across the Zambezi River. They moved into Upper Burma, North Borneo, and islands of the Pacific. Moreover, they colonized Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the east coast of North America. “The Roman Empire was self-contained,” writes James Morris in Pax Britannica. “The British empire was broadcast across the earth.” It became the largest empire in the history of mankind, encompassing nearly a quarter of the earth’s land surface and more than a quarter of its population. It was said that the sun never set on its domain.
A Dual Power
In the book of Revelation, this seventh world power had also been described as having “two horns like a lamb.” (Revelation 13:11) Why two horns? Because the British Empire and the new American nation, joined by common language, principles, and policies, were soon working together. They became, in many respects, a dual English-speaking world power.
William B. Willcox points out in Star of Empire that in the 19th century the United States was “insulated from Europe by the British fleet.” He adds: “For a century the United States was free to grow into a great power without ever possessing, except in her civil war, the army or navy by which every other great power was known.” America “had been able to afford isolation because the Royal Navy had been her buffer against European powers.” Later, the United States also became a great military power.
An outstanding example of the combined activity of Britain and America occurred on June 6, 1944, when the tide of World War II changed in northern Europe. On that day, 156,000 British, American, and other Allied troops invaded the continent of Europe. This combined force was under the supreme command of a U.S. general and the operational command of a British field marshal—Eisenhower and Montgomery respectively. Furthermore, the atom bombs that ended the war with Japan resulted from a joint effort by British and American scientists.
As the Los Angeles Times of May 5, 1986, pointed out, even in peacetime, Britain and America have collaborated “in such sensitive areas as intelligence and nuclear technology.” Later joined by Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, they have “divided the globe into areas of responsibility for intelligence-gathering and agreed to share even the most secret information.” This newspaper said that while the relationship “has not always been a smooth one,” it has been “more notable for its closeness than its irritations.”
Most of Britain’s colonies have gained independence and joined the Commonwealth of Nations. While the empire may be gone, the Anglo-American World Power remains. But it will exist for only “a short while,” when compared with the many centuries that the preceding Roman power held sway.—Revelation 17:10.
New Worldwide Rulership
Daniel’s prophecy concerning the great world powers has proved true through 2,500 years of world government—from before 500 B.C.E. down through the seventh world power in our day. Thus, we can have confidence in the rest of that prophecy. The astounding fact is that it describes no more human world powers! Revelation too indicated that there would be only seven.* Then, what will happen next?
Chapter 7 of Daniel, which tells about these world powers, goes on to describe something even more astonishing—a major change in the way the earth is ruled! Failing human rulerships are to end and be replaced by a righteous heavenly one.
Daniel’s vision permitted him to see the magnificent heavenly throne of “the Ancient of Days,” Jehovah God. Brought before this One was “someone like a son of man”—the resurrected Jesus Christ.* Daniel relates: “To him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom [unlike failing human kingdoms] one that will not be brought to ruin.”—Daniel 7:9, 10, 13, 14.
An earlier prophecy given to Daniel concerning the same world powers had said: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these [human] kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite . . . And the dream is reliable, and the interpretation of it is trustworthy.”—Daniel 2:44, 45.
This Kingdom government by God is the same one for which Jesus taught us to pray. He said: “You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.’”—Matthew 6:9, 10.
How happy earth’s inhabitants will be under that government! It will be a change from human exploitation to divine justice, from man’s imperfect way of doing things to God’s supreme standards. What the Bible says about the operation of the Kingdom will be the subject of a future article in this series.
Revelation 17:11 mentions a “wild beast” that is “an eighth king, but springs from the seven.” This eighth power that would exist during the lifetime of the seventh will be discussed in a later article.
The expression “Son of man” is found nearly 80 times in the Gospel accounts, and in every case it refers to Jesus Christ.—See Matthew 26:63, 64.
[Picture on page 26]
The Allied invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944, was an outstanding example of Anglo-American cooperation
U.S. Coast Guard photo