The Little Horn

Among conservative commentators there are two main candidates to identify the 'little horn': either the papacy or the antichrist. I believe that if we integrate this vision of Daniel with the Revelation given to John we shall see that neither of these descriptions is entirely accurate. Instead we will see a glimpse of one of Satan's masterpieces that has a dominant role in the tribulation of the end times.

When attempting to identify a new entity within scripture the obvious first step is to look for other occurrences of the same name. We find two occurrences of the 'little horn' both in Daniel, one in chapter 7 one in chapter 8.[1]

At first sight it is tempting to assume these are the same; however we find the genesis of the two 'little horns' are very different. In chapter 7 the little horn comes up amongst ten others and replaces three[2]. We are specifically told[3] that he[4] will be different from the ten. In chapter 8 the horn grows from one of four horns[5], each of which is a replacement of one great horn.

The two 'little horns' also appear to differ in character. In Daniel 8 we appear to see power and might, probably a sign of a military ruler. We don't see much interest in speech or intelligence. The little horn of chapter 7 is very different, each time it is mentioned it is accompanied by 'great words'[6].

Thus we must assume that the two 'little horns' are actually different characters. Many of the commentators identify the second 'little horn' with Antiochus Epiphanes[7]. Gaebelein [8]suggests that Antiochus only typifies the little horn of chapter 8 and that the type is actually fulfilled by the 'king of the north'.

Having failed to identify our little horn by name we need to look for some other characteristic that may help us tie to the right location. The horns and heads are striking but actually occur a lot in scripture; a more unique feature we can look for is the time period. A time and times and the dividing of time. We find this expression in three other places, one in Daniel 12[9] the other in Revelation 12[10]. In fact all three of these probably refer to the same time period[11] but the clear bull's-eye is in Revelation 12. Here we find not only the identical time period but also the identical activity: the persecution of the saints.

Having established that the little horn should be appearing 'in or around' revelation 12 we can study that chapter (and the following) to find a character to fit him to. We really have two alternatives, the 'beast of the sea'[12] or the 'beast of the earth'[13]. To see which has the most similar characteristics it is profitable to tabulate the information[14].

Little Horn (Dan 7) Beast of Sea Beast of Earth
From non-descript beast with 10 horns. Beast from sea with 10 horns. Rev 13:1 Two horns. Rev 13:11
Spake great things. A mouth speaking great blasphemies. Rev 13:5 Spake as a dragon yet was deceptive. Rev 13:11&14
Spake against Most High God Rev 13:6 Opened his mouth in Blasphemy against God. No blasphemy noted
To 'wear out' the saints To make war with the saints and overcome them. Rev 13:7 Rev 13:15, would cause death to non-beast worshippers.

I think it becomes readily apparent that the 'little horn' of Daniel 7 is also the 'beast of the sea' from revelation 13.

Tying together Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 allows us to draw in a third chapter, Revelation 17. Rev 17 describes another beast with 7 heads and 10 horns. Simply from reading revelation it is probable that this beast is the same as Revelation 13, however Daniel 7 clinches the deal. In Dan 7 we are told that the 10 horns represent 10 kings, in Revelation 17 we are told the 10 horns represent 10 kings, it is therefore very probably that these are the same 10 kings and thus the same 10 horns.

Having formed this identification we may now look at the cumulative characteristics to attempt to adduce the behavior and role of this entity.

The first profitable thing to note is that this entity is actually a person. There are a number of pointers to this: -

  1. He has a mouth (Rev 13:5, Dan 7:8)
  2. It had eyes like a mans (Dan 7:8)
  3. The 10 horns represent people[15]; logically the 'little horn' would too.
  4. It accepted worship; this could still be an idol but is unlikely to be a 'kingdom'. (Rev 13:4)
  5. He is described as the 7th (and 8th) king. (Rev 17:10-11)

For me a fascinating feature of the little horn (or beast) is the deadly wound. This is mentioned most clearly in Rev 13:3-4; where one of the heads is said to be "wounded to death", yet healed. We know from verse 4 that this inspires awe on the part of the earth folk. From Rev 17:10-11 we find that this fatally wounded king is almost certainly the 7th that, in the time of John, was yet to come.

We know a fair amount about the nature of the little horn too. He raises himself up against the Most High God, he attempts to alter the legal system and he ruthlessly persecutes the saints[16]. We also know that he deals in treachery. He is brought up amongst the ten kings[17] yet he roots three of them out[18].

Rev 13:7 tells us that his rule is going to be fairly global. We know that his full rule lasts for three and a half years[19] although in the scheme of things it is viewed as a short space[20]. In fact his rule with the 10 kings is viewed as one hour, which may imply that having come to power through the 10 kings he very rapidly subjugates them entirely, possibly through the threat of uprooting the remaining seven.

Daniel 7 gives us the most authorative clue as to when the little horn comes to power. Dan 7:26-27 tells us plainly that the kingdom of the beast will be directly judged and that the kingdom he had will be given to the saints. As this is a vision to Daniel (a Jew) it must be the Jewish saints that are in view. If you go through our history there is no global kingdom that has rapidly passed away and the remains of the kingdom been handed to the Jews. This tells us that the little horn is yet to come.

There is one more potential clue about the little horn. In Rev 13:1 we are told the beast came from the sea. The sea is a type of the gentile nations, which suggests that the little horn, the beast from the sea is a gentile. If this is true then he cannot actually be the anti-Christ[21], as any false Christ would need to be a Jew in order to attempt to deceive the Jews[22].

Whilst I think I have stated the facts we know of the little horn it may perhaps be profitable to attempt to role them together into a possible picture of exactly what happens. Of necessity I am going somewhat beyond that, which can be proven, although the picture I am about to paint is one held by a number of conservative prophecy students[23].

At the start of the tribulation a gentile world leader arises, probably the rider of the first horse of Rev 6. He is an extremely skilled orator and an acute observer of the times: a perfect politician. He is friendly towards the Jews and rules in a fairly democratic and popular way. He has a council of ten kings, each for a given region.

There will be much turmoil during this time, which will be blamed upon those that worship God[24]. Around the middle of the tribulation he receives a deadly wound. My guess is that this wound comes from the two witnesses of Revelation 11. Then as Satan is cast from heaven (Rev 12) he enters into the now dead ruler and essentially brings him 'to life[25]'. The ruler now kills the two witnesses and draws the awe of the world.

From this position of power he now takes control of his council[26] and declares war on the saints[27]. This continues for three and a half years until the Lord comes.

In this essay we have drawn a picture of what will probably be the most powerful and evil man ever to walk upon this earth. It is interesting that the Bible chooses to describe him as a little horn. And even when it is said he will persecute the Saints scripture immediately places a limit upon how long he can do it.

We need to see that whatever the world can do, however much man manages to aggrandize himself, we are but little and limited compared to the Almighty God. By following man you can have a little power for a short while. By following God the rewards are great and eternal.

Choose you this day whom ye will serve; - but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.


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