Ten Horns Coming into View?
(Published January, 2020; revised September, 2020. Scriptures quoted are from the ESV Bible unless noted otherwise)
Theories abound to explain that mysterious group of nations, the “ten horns” featured in the Books of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 and 17. What do these Horns on the head of history’s final Beast-empire symbolize? In previous generations, no satisfactory answer could be given – simply because historical conditions did not yet match, accurately enough, the conditions set down in the above prophetic passages. But it appears, at last, those historical conditions are now coming into view.
Before proceeding further, it may help to clear up a certain area of misunderstanding, one that has come about from a mis-translation of Revelation 17:16 in older Bible versions: “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.” (NKJV) It sounds as if the Ten Horns are the ones doing the monumental job of destroying the Great Harlot. But the above translation has added the word “on” and left out the word “and”.
A more accurate translation: “The BEAST AND THE TEN HORNS you saw will hate etc.” (NIV, similar to ESV, NLT, and others) This more clearly shows that it is the Beast who destroys the Great Harlot. . . with the help of his 10 horns, of course.
According to the symbolism, these ten nations do not have any significant power of their own. A “beast” has all the organs, skeletal framework, musculature, limbs, everything that forms a body. It symbolizes a superpower (and its leader) with all the infrastructure – political-military organization, wealth, industry, population, weapons – everything that’s needed to rule much of the world. The horns, on the other hand, are a small part of the body and can only do what their “head” wants them to do.
The “head” in this case is the Antichrist. In Daniel 7 he is portrayed also as “another horn, a little one” – but a horn that had “eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things”. (7:8) The ten horns, however, do not possess these characteristics, meaning they have nothing close to the same kind of power and influence. They are appendages and do not act independently of their Beast (the Little Horn) who directs them and uses them to fight against other predators and enemies. Their role is limited to that of helping to strengthen the Beast and carry out the war against the Great Harlot.
And yet, paradoxically, they do “receive power as kings one hour with the beast.” So what could all this mean?
At this stage, it would help to pinpoint who is the Beast. That is easy. Ezekiel 38-39 predicts that in the End Time the northern power of Russia will invade the Middle East, especially the nation of Israel. As far as God is concerned, all the empires of human history are beast-like. But Russia, like the other Beasts mentioned in Daniel 7-8 and Revelation 13, will have that unique qualification of a Biblical Beast – namely, control over and occupation of the nation of Israel. (See Posts on Ezekiel 38-39.)
Since the ten-horned beast likely originates in the Russian nation (according to Ezekiel 38-39), then it would seem natural that those ten horns should have a close connection with Russia. Horns are supposed to be attached to the beast they are part of. This close relationship is also suggested in Daniel 7:8 and 20 – “There came up among them another horn (Antichrist from Russia). . . that seemed greater than its companions.” Even though the passage portrays this final empire as a “beast”, it also portrays him as a fellow “horn”.
So who then might these horns be? The satellite nations on Russia’s border would appear to be the most likely candidates as the fulfillment of the Ten Horns symbolism.
At this point we might wonder about the portrayal in Daniel 7, which seems to indicate that those ten horns should come out of nations that once belonged to the Roman empire. (See Appendix 1 for further explanation as to why the horns do not have to be connected to ancient Rome.)
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is a regional intergovernmental organization of originally ten post-Soviet republics in Eurasia formed following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. (Wikipedia: Commonwealth of Independent States)
These satellite nations have already partnered with Russia in the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.) organization. In the 1990’s there were 11 nations in this group – Russia plus the 10 states of Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan. (Turkmenistan, because of its economic independence, was able to maintain “associate” status rather than become a full member.) Since the 1990’s, Ukraine and Georgia have dropped out due to the prospects of joining the European Union and/or NATO.
Interestingly, there is a prophetic passage about the Ten Horns with the peculiar detail that “[the Beast] shall subdue three kings; they would be “plucked up by the roots”. (Daniel 7:8,20,24) It is easy to foresee this could become the eventual fate of Ukraine and Georgia, and any other state (Moldova?) drifting too far into the American anti-Russia camp.
The 10-horned Beast of Daniel 7 – “Terrifying and Dreadful and Exceedingly Strong” (7:7)
But then, we may wonder, what about some other nations with whom Russia is allied – such as some Middle Eastern ones or China? Perhaps, but those nations are more distant and independent from Russia; it would be difficult to see how they might get “plucked up by the roots”.
However, the C.I.S. nations are right there in Russia’s backyard and somewhat dependent on her economically and in other ways. So they are obliged, in spite of having their independence, to follow in Russia’s footsteps. And if they don’t, then, like some Latin American nations who’ve tried to deviate from American interests, they are likely to get “plucked up by the roots”.
A look at another symbolism in Daniel 7 might help. In verse 6, there is mention of a “leopard” Beast, having four wings and four heads. These peculiar features were mentioned to help identify this as the ancient Greek empire; the wings symbolized its speedy conquest of the Mideast world under Alexander, and the heads symbolized the later partition of it under four of Alexander’s generals.
The 4-headed Leopard of Daniel 7:6, Symbolic of Ancient Greece
Likewise, the portrayal of the Ten Horns can be thought of as a way to help us identify who the final “beast” is. It recognizes a peculiar feature about the Russian empire, that ten smaller nations are attached to it. As the four heads were an integral part of the Greek empire, so the horns would likely symbolize nations that are an integral part of Russia.
The main difference is that, as “heads”, the four Greek divisions became empires in their own right and were quite independent. The “horn” symbolism shows that the ten nations are not supposed to be major centers of power in the world; otherwise, they should have been symbolized as “heads” perhaps, or “beasts”. But they are pictured as mere “horns”.
Of course, horns can do a lot of damage in those occasional times of dueling with other animals or predators. Although small, they may cause a lot of damage because of the strategic military role they can play in the future war with the Great Harlot (perhaps through terrorist strategy?). (See Appendix 2 about the Collective Security Treaty Organization.)
And the fact that these nations have joined the C.I.S. shows that they have made one step, at least, towards surrendering their independence, handing “their power and authority to the beast”, as mentioned in Revelation 17:13,17. “Power and authority” means their resources and power of government. [Appendix 3] Those nations will allow themselves to be taken over completely, in other words. Again, it would be difficult to see how this might happen with any nations outside of Russia’s backyard.
Although they will join the Beast (the Russian Federation), it seems they will be allowed to retain the outward symbols of sovereignty. This we might assume from Revelation 13:1 about the Beast, “having. . . ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns.” (NKJV) Other than that, however, it seems they will be absorbed into the Russian Federation.
Then there is this unusual statement that “the ten horns. . . have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.” (17:12) This fits nicely with the situation of the C.I.S. nations. They emerged out of subjugated status in the old Soviet Union only in very recent history.
During Perestroika in the early 1990’s, Russia, through the influence of its leader Mikhail Gorbachev, allowed them to choose independence; yet they remained in mutual association with Russia through the C.I.S., just as the Scripture states, “they are to receive authority as kings. . . together with the beast.”
The re-structuring (Perestroika) of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s and the sudden appearance of its former republics as independent nations was certainly one of the more peculiar and outstanding events of the 20th century. And this extraordinary transition in the Soviet state was one that seems to fulfill precisely the situation that Revelation 17 describes.
As for the other former communist nations in eastern Europe (along with the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia), they have broken away completely now and have joined the European Union. They are no longer “together with the beast”, in the way that the CIS nations are who also gained their independence during the Perestroika era.
So, could it be that this peculiar and unique historical event – this bestowing of independence on the Soviet republics – was predicted long ago in this ancient passage of Scripture?
And another peculiar aspect about this event: The Ten Horns “receive authority as kings . . . together with the beast.” In other words, without the Beast, these nations would not have gained independence. Normally, nations fight bloody wars and gain their independence in spite of their over-ruler, not because of the more powerful nation.
Perhaps because of this more friendly relationship, as that passage suggests, when conflict with the Great Harlot gets to the boiling point, and because of their mutual hatred for her, they willingly re-attach themselves to the Beast – unlike the forced cooperation in the days of the Soviet Union.
“And the ten horns. . . and the beast will hate the prostitute. . . God has put it in their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” (Revelation 17:16-17)
To summarize: These satellite nations around Russia were totally subjugated in the Soviet Union (“have not yet received royal power”). Then at last in the 1990’s, they “receive authority as kings”, their independence. But it is “together with the beast.” This independence was given to them by Russia, and they maintain close ties with her through their membership in the C.I.S.
It all fits rather well the description given in Revelation 17. In essence, the symbolism of Beast and Ten Horns appears to be the Lord’s way of symbolizing the modern Soviet Union – the resurrected version of it.
Of course, part of the prophecy hasn’t seen complete fulfillment yet: “these are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast.” But it is not hard to foresee that, after the initial steps in the formation of the C.I.S., these weaker, formerly Communist nations could in future “hand over their power and authority to the beast”. (17:13)
Another aspect not fulfilled: Their independence will be short-lived – “receive authority as kings for one hour”. (17:12) So if this passage of Scripture in Revelation 17 is talking about these former Soviet states, then the time for their re-integration with Russia can’t be very far away, it would appear.
Here are some helpful, practical details to consider: In a quote from Vladimir Putin about the breakup of the Soviet Union, he stated that the nation “lost 23.8 percent of its national territory, 48.5 percent of its population, 41 percent of its gross domestic product and 44.6 percent of its military capacity.” (from “Time to Get Over the Russophobia” By Patrick J. Buchanan – March 8, 2018)
If the smaller C.I.S. nations were to re-join Russia, the nation would jump in size by almost 50% – in population, resources, and power. The 23.8% increase in land territory may not seem like a lot; but considering that much of Russia is barren wasteland, that also is quite a bit of territory.
It is being assumed here, for now, that the original 10 “permanent members” – Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan – will be recognized as the “ten horns” of the ancient Biblical prophecies. This includes Ukraine and Georgia who have dropped out for the time being but may be forced to re-join in the future. Turkmenistan is not included since, at present, she is not a permanent member of the C.I.S.
This is only an assumption, of course. As history moves forward, then we will learn more precisely how this upcoming power arrangement will manifest.
Some other points to consider: Georgia, Armenia, Azherbaijan occupy strategic locations along the borders of Russia, leading into the Mideast, and also have valuable reserves of oil and natural gas. Other C.I.S. nations have nuclear energy resources, navies and armies, sea ports, oil and other resources that Russia vitally needs.
If these satellite countries do not “give their kingdom to the beast”, it’s difficult to see how Russia could become strong enough to again challenge the Great Harlot (as in the days of the Cold War), much less defeat her militarily. (17:17, NKJV) Re-unification with the C.I.S. nations will empower Russia to climb out of the second-class nation category and return to her former superpower status. Those nations would also act as a useful buffer region around Russia’s extensive borderland territory.
We see then how these small C.I.S. nations could play the pivotal role in turning the tide in favor of Russia’s (and the Antichrist’s) ascendance to supreme power in the world. In fact, they could even become the key factor in bringing about the fiery downfall of the Great Harlot, as pictured in Revelation 17-18.
Even now, the C.I.S. nations are serving as a sort of testing ground where a big showdown is taking place between U.S. and Russian interests. These small C.I.S. republics are quite vulnerable, but if they perceive Russia as a more reliable friend and support, then that may embolden them to resist the Harlot by returning to the Russian fold.
After the collapse of communism and break-up of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has tried to use these weaker nations as her backdoor entrance to surround Russia militarily, even to slip in and grab the resources of this once impregnable fortress of the former Soviet Union. Some of these countries have adopted, on the political level, a fence-sitting posture vis-à-vis America. This trend, however, could very well shift in a different direction as America’s duplicity and incompetence in the Middle East become more and more obvious.
In the last few years, Russia has adopted a nationalistic stance under her present ruler (Putin) and seems to be fortifying herself against U.S. attempts to infiltrate, not only her own borders, but also those of her C.I.S. neighbors. For these vulnerable nations of the C.I.S., it would be smarter for them to resist the U.S., to hang on to their resources, especially when they know they have the powerful backing of mother Russia.
In the world of politics, alliances can shift rapidly. So, we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out. The fact that the Ten Horns come to “hate the prostitute” implies that these Horns will make a switch in their allegiance at some point. (17:16) Right after the break-up of the Soviet Union, they (and Russia) didn’t “hate the prostitute” and were allowing her to rob them of their resources.
But nowadays, as Russia re-strengthens itself, they will begin to shift their allegiance. Once they become aware of Russia’s strong hand backing them, they will not cave in so easily to America’s attempts to grab their resources. They will make some dramatic decisions to “hate the prostitute” and “give their power and authority to the beast” instead. (17:13) This could trigger no small amount of conflict.
And because of this fragile state of affairs and Russian/C.I.S. nationalism, it wouldn’t take much of a spark to ignite a war against the U.S. In short, the U.S. is courting disaster by meddling around so much in Russia’s backyard.
So it is foreseeable, judging lately by how Russia has conducted herself wisely in the Middle East wars and proven to be a stable ally, that a terrific backlash may occur from these small nations. They will come to realize where the real threat lies and that Russia is their protector as she tries to ward off America’s incursions into her backyard and in the Middle East.
All in all, we can see – with the apparent arrival of the Ten Horns on the world stage – another developing “sign of the times” that human history is heading into that climactic era known as the End of the Age.
Daniel 7 pictures “four great beasts” which “came up out of the sea.” (7:3) The first three Beasts are easily understood to symbolize the successive empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The “fourth beast” is described as “terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. . . and it had ten horns.” (7:7) This rather embellished description, along with the entire passage of Daniel 7, make it clear that this “fourth beast” symbolizes both ancient Rome and the End of the Age empire. And because the two are lumped together in one beast, it is natural to think that the 10 horns must come out of the remains of ancient Rome.
To be precise though, it is really a question of the modern empire arising out of the ancient one. And the horns are attached to the modern version of this Beast, not to the ancient Roman version.
So let us explore these questions: how can these two empires (symbolized in one Beast) be so different geographcially – as ancient Rome and modern Russia? And how is it that the 10 Horns could be outgrowths of modern Russia rather than of ancient Rome or Europe?
A key point to understand here is that much of the symbolism points here, not to any physical similarity between ancient and modern empires, but to their similarity in spirit. Daniel 7 displays prominently the beast-like nature of those empires – along with certain peculiar features that help to identify them.
And another helpful key lies in the fact that the “four beasts” vision of Daniel 7 corresponds closely to Daniel’s earlier vision in chapter 2 of “a great image” or statue. In this vision, what was known as the “fourth beast” in chapter 7, is called the “fourth kingdom”. This “fourth kingdom” straddles both legs and feet of the image, which corresponds to how the “fourth beast” from chapter 7 symbolizes both ancient and modern empires. (2:40; 7:7,23)
In the image vision of chapter 2, the “fourth kingdom” starts out as two legs made of iron (symbolic of the dual empire of East and West Rome) and continues into the feet. The “iron”, symbolic of the iron character of Rome, would correspond to the “beast” character of the “fourth beast” who in Daniel 7:7 is described as “exceedingly strong” – similar to the “fourth kingdom” in Daniel 2:40, which is described as being “strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things.”
There are certain features that began with ancient Rome and have continued (or will continue) into the modern age and the upcoming final empire: republican government, powerful military strength, persecution of God’s people, invasion of Jerusalem and the “holy place”, the false demagogue they provide for the world to worship. (See the post “How Iron Continues into Today’s World” for more information.) And that is why in chapters 2 and 7 they are visualized as one “fourth kingdom” and one “fourth beast”, each of which includes both ancient Rome and the final empire.
These common features, found in both ancient and modern empires, are not geographical but pertain to intangible features – those that contribute to or result from their character of military strength. As for the geographical features, the only indication from Daniel 7 is that there will be 10 horns (subservient nations attached to the fourth beast); in Daniel 2 geographical features are symbolized by the different body parts of the various empires. This is a big subject and is covered more thoroughly in post 3 and post 6 from the Shape of the Future series.
As mentioned, the “fourth kingdom” in Daniel 2 consists of both legs and feet. Since the foot is different from the leg, this should indicate that the geography of the final empire would differ from that of the previous one. And there is no question that the feet are symbolic of another empire, coming at a much later point in history – the final one at the End of the Age when the “image” is destroyed in preparation for the coming Kingdom of God. “A stone. . . struck the image on its feet. . . But the stone. . . became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” (7:34-35)
So we would expect that the feet, being a different body part, would symbolize a different location geographically (and a shorter time span). In brief, the geographical shape of the future looks like this: the dual empire of ancient Rome, which consisted of European and Asian nations, will transform into a greatly enlarged dual empire of European and Asian nations: European Russia and some EU nations and the Asian territories of Siberia, China, and Middle East nations. (This also is a big subject and is covered more thoroughly in the post “Physical Geography – Which Two Territories?”.) This future grouping of nations is speculative, of course, but it does seem consistent with the symbolism: the “feet” should represent a dual empire connected to the Roman empire “legs” of West and East Rome (European and Asian nations) and an enlarged version of the same.
This then shows how the modern empire is connected to the ancient one. And getting back to the original question of how can the ten horns be connected to modern Russia instead of ancient Rome, the answer is simple; they’re part of the modern empire, not the ancient one, so they don’t have to be connected to ancient Rome.
This seems to be confirmed in the Daniel 2 vision, which draws particular attention to the toes of the feet (in verses 41-42). Toes are an outgrowth of the feet, not the legs. Assuming that the 10 toes allude to the 10 horns, then that points to the horns as being connected directly to the modern empire of the feet, not the ancient one of the legs.
There is also Revelation 13 and 17, which envision the same ten-horned sea-Beast, having this time “seven heads”. This Beast symbolizes the final empire to come in our present Age. The Heads are different manifestations of the same Beast who has appeared throughout history, showing that this final version will have the combined wisdom and might of all previous empires; otherwise though, the Heads represent separate empires.
For the End of the Age, it is the seventh Head who “has not yet come (in John the apostle’s day)” who represents the final Antichrist empire. This seventh head is separate from the sixth Head of ancient Rome (“one is” in John’s day) and from the others (“five of whom have fallen”). (17:3,10) And this seventh Head is the one that possesses ten horns.
From these various clues in the Daniel and Revelation Books, it should be safe to conclude that the Ten Horns are a group of modern nations that need not have any connection to ancient Rome. The “fourth beast” of Daniel 7 symbolizes two empires, ancient and modern. The modern version of it was re-envisioned later as the seven-headed Beast in Revelation 13 and 17, and it is this empire, not its Ten Horns, that should be connected to ancient Rome. The Ten Horns can arise anywhere from a vast territory that, from the looks of it, may stretch all the way from Europe through the Mideast to Siberia.
And since the “fourth beast” of Daniel 7 was pictured as a great military power, this would suggest that its 10 horns will be attached to the modern military stronghold of Russia, which also happens to be depicted in Ezekiel 38-39 as the conqueror of Israel and the Middle East in the End of the Age era of history.
Another possible grouping of nations similar to the C.I.S. is in the process of formation, the Collective Security Treaty Organization:
“The CSTO, established in 2002, includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. It is a full-blown military alliance whose members have pledged to come to one another’s support in case of an attack. It is currently developing a rapid-reaction force similar to the one being built by NATO.” (“A New Cold War?” by Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus, June 19, 2008)
Since 1994, Uzbekistan has left the alliance. How it will pan out in the end is difficult to tell. At any rate this is another possibility to consider, that this six-nation alliance might grow till it reaches that elusive formula of 10 + 1 nations.
From Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (page 225):
Power: dunamis – inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth. (page 159)
Authority: exousia – the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed, [generally translated as authority]).