Discourse 13– Which world empires do the 7 (or 8) heads (or kings) of Revelation 17 represent?

Which world empires do the 7 (or 8) heads (or kings) of Revelation 17 represent? / Book Ernst Panzer 00, pp 65f

Table – The World Empires in the Bible.

Is Napoleon III the seventh of the heads mentioned in Revelation 17? / Book Ernst Panzer 01, pp 66f

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

(Which world empires do the 7 (or 8) heads (or kings) of Revelation 17 represent? / Book EP00, pp 65f +))

The empire of Ancient Rome, under which Our Lord Jesus Christ passed his time on this earth, and in which John likewise lived, was for Daniel (Dan 7, ed.) the fourth empire, and for John (Rev 13, ed.) is the fourth head of the beast, because John sees a (telescoped) beast. To make it plain that the time of the beast does not come to an end with the end of the Ancient Roman empire, John now sees a further head - the fifth - on the beast. This fifth head is the later Roman or Holy Roman (world) empire, which after the fall of Ancient Rome rose from the ashes of its destruction like the phoenix. The fourth, Roman (world) empire was thus not over when the line of emperors of Ancient Rome came to an end: in the year 800 AD it was given a new head, when the Roman Pope set the crown of the Roman Empire on the head of the King of Germany and so made him the supreme secular head of Christendom. These five first heads of the beast belong together in historical terms. When the fifth has fallen, this marks the conclusion of a major historical epoch. John makes this point (Rev 17,10) when he says that "five have fallen". This prophecy was fulfilled in the year 1806, with the dissolution of the later Roman empire. The French Revolution of 1789 was the ultimate cause of the fall of the fifth head, and it is also the origin of the three following identically named heads, the sixth, the seventh and the eighth. We can infer from Revelation 17,10, incidentally, that the three last heads are of short duration by comparison with the first five. The verse also indicates that the last three belong together, in the same way as the first five do.

Eight world rulers (heads of the beast) are listed in Revelation 17,11: 1. Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2,38), 2. Cyrus (Isa. 44,28), 3. Alexander the Great (Dan. 8,21), 4. Augustus (Luk. 2,1), 5. Charlemagne, 6. Napoleon I, 7. Napoleon II (the second Napoleon to rule, known to history as Napoleon III), 8. Napoleon III (the third of this name to rule, who according to Revelation 17,8 is to come up out of the abyss through the effects of Satanic power).

+) At the request of E. Panzer, this further interpretation of the questions discussed here is taken from his book "Prophetie und Enthüllung" ["Prophecy and Revelation"], published by the Philadelphia-Verlag [Philadelphia Publishers].

(Ernst Panzer / www.philadelphia-verlag.com)

If we take all the thematically relevant scriptural passages, it is hardly a problem to identify the world empires and relate them to the various statements made by Scripture. In Rev 17 the seven (or eight) heads (or kings) give us an excellent overview, to which Rev 13 and Rev 20 add useful complementary information, as do also Dan 2 and 7.

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.

Rev 17,7 And the angel said to me, "Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. 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. 17,9 "Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 17,10 and 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. 17,11 "The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. Rev 17, 7-11;

The reference points for Dan 2 are on the one hand the "head of gold" - that is to say, Nebuchadnezzar or Babylon - at the beginning, and on the other the stone that was "cut out of the mountain without hands" and which crushed all the other kingdoms at the end of the sequence, this being the Kingdom of Peace of the Lord Jesus. Dan 7 focuses then on the "iron teeth" (Dan 7,7: "...had large iron teeth... and crushed...") which belong with the "iron legs" (Dan 2,40: "inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things") and the "four wings" and "four heads" of the leopard (Dan 7,6) - and here the first symbolizes the incredible rapidity with which Alexander established this empire by conquest, and the latter indicates the four successor states into which the Greek empire fell apart after Alexander’s death. On this account, then, the bear stands for the Medes and Persians, and the lion for Babylon. Some commentators would like to see the lion as the empire of the Medes and Persians, but then of course they have difficulties when they come to interpret the beast with iron teeth and ten horns, because there is then no empire "left" for it. They therefore interpret this beast as the United Nations. Now any schoolchild today knows that the UNO is not a world empire, as it is not even a federation of states acting in a politically unified way. And why the UNO should be "dreadful" and "terrifying", or how it comes to "crush and trample down the remainder with its feet" - if we leave the financial contributions of the member states out of consideration - is hardly a matter for serious argument.

In Rev 13 we have a description of the Antichrist, who will be endowed with the most important properties of all these empires.

(See also Table 06: "The Antichrist, the ‘queen’ in the devil’s chess game.")

The above attempt to find a place here for Charlemagne, the French Revolution and the three Napoleons as world empires is very understandable, even if it does not help us to get to where we want to go. Certainly it is difficult to see, at a first glance, why the last 1500 years of world history should not put in any kind of appearance in these prophecies at all.

But when we look at the text of Dan 2 more closely, we notice two things. First of all - and this is a fact that is often overlooked - legs and feet are two separate empires. These can be inferred not just from the fact that they are mentioned separately: in addition, they are associated with different materials - the legs with pure iron (Dan 2,40), while the feet are partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron (Dan 2,41). The feet are also explicitly referred to in Dan 2,41 as a kingdom in their own right ("a divided kingdom").

But the length of the limbs could also be an indication of the duration of the kingdoms in question. We know, of course, that the kingdom of the Antichrist (here the feet, with ten toes, or kings) will be of exceedingly short duration (three and a half years, or perhaps seven years). Accordingly the Roman Empire - the legs - would exist for a correspondingly longer period.

But it is more than just suppositious - it is an actual fact that between the legs (the Roman Empire) and the feet (the kingdom of the Antichrist) there is no mention of any other world empire. This proves that we do not have to go looking for one - not in the Middle Ages, not in modern times and not in the future either! At present we are evidently still to be located in the offshoots - perhaps we could say the "shins" - of the Roman Empire. We have confirmation of this not just in our European legislative and judicial systems, which even today to a great extent still rest on Roman foundations, but also in our medicine, culture and military organization, to name just a few areas, all of which likewise embody the "genetic heritage" of Ancient Rome.

We can assume, then, that until the establishment of the kingdom of the Antichrist no other world empire will put in an appearance on the stage of global history. There will be some amalgamations of nations, just as it is altogether possible that some national federations will break up, to be reunited later when the Antichrist appears. But there will not, up to that time, be any world empire to be compared with the previous historical ones (of the Romans, the Greeks etc.) - involving, that is to say, centralized political government, an authoritarian regime and a ruler with unlimited power. We have it on the authority of Scripture.

As is well known, a picture says more than a thousand words. For this reason I am inserting below Table 02, which illustrates the world empires in the Bible.

The World Empires in the Bible. (LANDSCAPE)

Kingdom of

Kingdom of

Kingdom of

Kingdom of

Kingdom of

Kingdom of

Kingdom of Antichrist
(The Great Tribulation)

(Kingdom of peace)

Last Fight

Rev 17:9-11

Rev 17:9-11

Rev 17:9-11

Rev 17:9-11
Cores (Cyrus)

Rev 17:9-11

Rev 17:9-11

Rev 17:9-11

Rev 20:4-7
Jesus Christ

Rev 17:8-11
Satan (beast)

head / king
he has fallen
head / king
he has fallen
head / king
he has fallen
head / king
he has fallen
head / king
he has fallen
head / king
he is
1st Antichrist Sea          head / king         2nd Antichrist Abyss  
       Rev 13:1             he will come             Rev 13:7; 11:7     
Judgments of Seals                    Day of the LORD        

First Resurrection:
the martyrs come to
life and reign with
Christ for 1000 years

head / king
he was 7th

Rev 6:2


2Thess 2:3-7

2Thess 2:8
Mt 24:29
Rev 7:14

2Thess 2:9

Eze 31:2-11

Eze 39:1-13
Rev 16:16; 19:19-24

Eze 38:1-13

Isa 10:5-26


Dan 2:32.37-38
of fine gold

Dan 2:32.39
breast, arms
of silver

Dan 2:32.39
belly, thighs
of bronze

Dan 2:33.40
of iron

 Dan 2:33.41-43   
iron, clay


Dan 2:42.44
toes iron clay
ten kings

Dan 2:34-35. 44-45
mountain stone
without hands

Dan 7:4
wings of eagle

Dan 7:5
raised side

Dan 7:6
four heads

Dan 7:7
iron teeth
ten horns

2Thess 2:3-12
the lawless one

Dan 7:8,11
ten horns
little horn

Dan 7:13-14
Son of Man

Rev 13:2
mouth of lion

Rev 13:2
feet of bear

Rev 13:2
like leopard

Rev 13:1
ten horns

Rev 13:3
slain to death
(2The 2:8)
but was healed

Rev 13:4.14
kings of the earth
beast and false
prophet into the
lake of fire
Rev 19:19-20

Rev 20:2-6

Rev 20:7-10

(See also Discourse 86: "The first and the second Antichrist.")

(See also Table 14: "The Great Tribulation - classified by events.")

(See also Excursus 03: "The scarlet beast.")

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

(Is Napoleon III the seventh of the heads mentioned in Revelation 17? / Book Ernst Panzer 01, pp 66f)

Some say at this point - Yes, Napoleon I could well be seen as the sixth head of the beast, but not Napoleon II (known to history as Napoleon III) as the seventh. This man, after all, was not such a significant historical figure. Now it is true that the second Napoleon to reign was less famous than his uncle, the incomparable general and masterful statesman. But if we want to form a correct estimate of the significance of the second reigning Napoleon, we have to think ourselves back into the period of a hundred years ago, when Europe was still the determining center of the cultural world. After the fall of Napoleon I, the heads of state of Russia, Austria and Prussia met in Paris to form what was known as the Holy Alliance. This was designed to make it impossible that a Napoleon should ever again come to the throne of France and so again exercise a determining influence on the course of European history. Nonetheless, after the revolution of 1848 in France Prince Louis Napoleon became first President of the Republic and in 1852 Emperor of the French. In the 1850s and 1860s he was really the dominant influence in European politics: on all issues, his word had a decisive effect. After the fall of Napoleon III in 1870, the London Times, then a journal of global importance, wrote as follows: "The victory of the Germans at Sedan points to a massive change in the balance of power, a new relation of the forces which influence political life on the European continent and have an effect on the destinies of the entire world. The annihilation of this great army was a significant event; but people’s feelings have been stirred even more by the abrupt fall of a ruler who in his time directed the destinies of Europe with a sovereign command unexampled since the days of the first Napoleon. The fall of the second Napoleon to rule as emperor marks the end of an epoch of European history.

(Ernst Panzer / www.philadelphia-verlag.com)

Prince Charles Louis Napoleon Buonaparte, Emperor of the French from 1852 to1870, may well have been a great statesman and a good Emperor of the French; but having said that, there is nothing more to be said. He was without military talent, and as a statesman he was conscious of the limits of French power, and thus adhered consistently to a policy of maintaining good relations with all other countries, especially with Great Britain. While he deserves credit for what he achieved in France in economic and social terms, he had very little effect on Europe as a whole. To see him as a "dominant influence on European politics" is just about as dubious as is the assumption that he is the seventh head in the vision of Rev 17. Napoleon III was Emperor of France, not Emperor of Europe, and France was at this time not a world empire but a perfectly normal European state amongst others.

But if we really want these biblical prophecies of world empires to give us a definite indication of the happenings of our own day, we are most likely to find it in the prophecy relating to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, in Dan 2,32-45.

The king’s dream.

Dan 2,32 "The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, 2,33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 2,34 "You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. 2,35 "Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. 2,36 "This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king. Dan 2,32-36;

The interpretation by Daniel.

Dan 2,37 "You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; 2,38 and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold. 2,39 "After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. "Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces. Dan 2,37-40;

The last kingdom before the Millennium.

Dan 2,41 "In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. 2,42 "As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. 2,43 "And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery. Dan 2,41-43;

The kingdom of God.

Dan 2,44 "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. 2,45 "Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy." Dan 2,44-45;

A close examination of these passages shows that it is always a metal that is the critical factor. First we have the noble metals gold and silver, then the colored metal copper (actually bronze) and lastly the black metal, iron. This surely cannot be a coincidence - and yet the commentators generally pass it over in silence.

These metals are different from one another in terms both of value and of hardness. Gold is the most valuable, but it is also the softest metal. If it is to be worked into an article of jewelry, it has to be alloyed with another stronger metal. Iron is the least valuable, but the hardest metal of the group.

These facts must be relevant to the interpretation of this prophecy. And we have a confirmation of this in Dan 2,39. Here it is stated, "And after you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you". Here is an express indication of the fact that at any rate the successor empire that follows on Nebuchadnezzar - but presumably also all the successor empires that follow - will be "inferior" in value, just as is illustrated in the sequence of metals.

And here the question suggests itself how we are to understand this "inferiority". We might go for the easy assumption that these empires will be not so great and not so powerful as the empire of Nebuchadnezzar, but this would be obviously untrue. Later history gave birth to empires that were both greater and more mighty than that of Nebuchadnezzar - those of the Romans, the Greeks... If we now take a look at the other end of the chain, we notice another feature of these empires. Of the fourth empire, the Roman Empire that is, we are told in Dan 2,40: "Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it (i.e. this kingdom - ed.) will crush and break all these in pieces."

We can now draw the following tentative conclusion: like the metals by which they are symbolized, these empires will decline in "value", while their "hardness" goes on increasing. So how are we to understand this? Here we should probably not be thinking in terms of kingdoms and empires - rather, we should focus on the individuals who have governed the destinies of these and who have constituted their population. It is what we may call the mentality of these peoples that is here addressed, and of which a picture is to be put across.

And if we now equate "value" and "hardness" with morality and discipline (the latter extending as far as unscrupulousness and brutality), not only do we have a fairly workable explanation to serve us in the interpretation of the "metals" - we can also see at once - by contrast with the race-based interpretative attempts of some commentators - what is meant by "potter’s clay" in the fifth empire. It represents a mentality that has reduced any conception of value, any moral concepts at all, to a minimum, and to which responsibility, conduct and discipline have become entirely foreign. We find a confirmation of this in the term used for clay in the verses Dan 2,41 and 43, namely "common clay" - seeing that in Aramaic this can also signify smut or filth, and in Hebrew can actually mean "excrement".

A further factor that is rarely adverted to in this connection is that the statue has, after all, two legs - a left leg and a right leg. It is true that there have been some attempts to relate this to the Roman Empires of East and West, but in the light of the theory we have advanced here with reference to the mentality and moral constitution of the people of the time indicated, there is a further possibility that suggests itself.

In our own day, above all, the "left" and the "right" - in a political sense - find daily mention in the headlines. It appears that these two opposed ways of thinking, though they have existed for some time, are coming to be increasingly polarized. On the left we find

-  Social Democrats, Communists, Greens, extreme leftists (Red Army Fraction, Brigate rosse [Red Brigades] etc.),

while on the right there are the

-  Christian Democrats, Conservatives, Liberal and Free Democrats, extreme rightists (nationalist parties, skinheads etc.).

The way things look today, this polarization - which can be observed in all the countries of Europe - is likely to increase in the years to come. And just possibly that is what this prophecy is about. And if we then take into account the "iron" attitude of spirit in the groups that owe allegiance to one or the other of these ways of thinking, the epoch of this "kingdom of the leg" is more likely to witness escalation than unification.

Unification is rather to be expected in what we may call the the "kingdom of the feet" of the first Antichrist. Here clay will be mixed with iron, that is to say, the eagles and the doves will come to a composition and so create the conditions for unification - a circumstance which the Antichrist will probably exploit in order to enhance the power of his kingdom.

The "kingdom of the toe" then, represents the second, the demonic Antichrist, the "beast out of the sea".

(See also Discourse 86: "The first and the second Antichrist.")