Theophilus did not directly predict the fall of Rome. Nonetheless, the timing of the events I describe on this page are mystifying—to say the least.
Let me explain very quickly what's so amazing about this statement by Theophilus.
6,000 years was a significant number to the early church. The Letter of Barnabas (not actually written by the Barnabas of Acts) was considered Scripture by some early churches. It reads:
If the world was 5,698 years old in A.D. 169, the year to which Theophilus was counting, then the world would hit 6,000 years in A.D. 471.
Theophilus, like the other Christians of his day, would have believed that when the world hit 6,000 years, the fall of Rome would occur, and the Antichrist would arise in Rome's place.
How accurate was he? Wikipedia states, "The traditional date of the fall of the Roman Empire is September 4, 476 when Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Roman Empire was deposed by Odoacer."
Theophilus, who pointed out he could be off by a few years due to odd months and days not covered in Scripture, predicted the fall of Rome to within a decade!
Daniel only mentions four kingdoms in his prophecies (Dan. 7:17-18), followed by the reign of the Antichrist (the "little horn"), and then the rule of the saints of the Most High. The early Christians understood this to mean that the 4th of those kingdoms would be the last before Antichrist took over.
They, like most Bible interpreters today, believed that 4th kingdom to be Rome.
Thus, once Rome fell, the Antichrist would rise up. He would be a little horn that uprooted three other horns, which were three kings that would willingly give their power to him (Rev. 17:12-13).
Because the tribes that sacked Rome were converted to Christianity, they made themselves subject to the bishop of Rome. The bishop of Rome was probably not yet an official pope, but he did carry great authority throughout the western empire and especially within the Germanic tribes.
In A.D. 410, Rome was sacked by Alaric, king of the Visigoths. In A.D. 455, it was sacked again by the Vandals. Finally, Odoacer, leading a tribe of Germanic peoples originally loyal to the emperor, killed the emperor's father, deposed the emperor, and sealed the fall of Rome in 476.
Each of these tribes were converted to Christianity, though they were Arians, before sacking Rome. Philip Schaff writes:
To whom did the Visigoths, the Vandals, and Odoacer's Germanic people give their allegiance? Despite bringing about the fall of Rome, they gave their allegiance—willingly—to the bishop of Rome.
Think about the Bible's prophecy. Just how likely is it that three kings would simply turn their power over to another king?
It doesn't seem quite so strange now because we're used to the idea of a pope with civil power. When the books of Daniel and Revelation were written, however, there was no pope. The idea of three kings voluntarily giving up their power to another was unlikely in the extreme.
The little horn, who uproots three other horns, does not only speak arrogantly. Daniel says the following about him:
Did the bishop of Rome do these things?
We can argue whether the pope—for the bishop of Rome is the pope— speaks words against the Most High. Protestants, in most cases, would say yes, and Catholic theologians would be greatly insulted at the suggestion.
However, it cannot be doubted that he intended to change religious festivals and laws—and succeeded— and that many saints of God were handed over to the Roman Catholic Church to be imprisoned, tortured, and put to death as heretics.
I know it's out of vogue to suggest that the pope is the Antichrist. He certainly doesn't have the power of an antichrist today, as he did throughout the middle ages. However, can we ignore all the following?
I don't know. Maybe that's all coincidence, but it seems awful hard to ignore to me.
As I said, this is all mystifying to me. I'll let you form your own opinions about Theophilus and the fall of Rome. Those bullet points I just gave you, however, are not opinion, but history. They all happened.
The reason this is so mystifying is that the things that have happened over the 1533 years since Rome fell are much more difficult to fit into prophecy. Let's say the prophecies about the fall of Rome and the Antichrist really were about the papacy of the middle ages. Does it make any sense that the Antichrist's reign has simply come to an end, and we've moved on to a secular age?
It doesn't make any sense to me, but it's awful hard to ignore the events surrounding the fall of Rome as coincidence. At least, it's hard for me to ignore.
Feel free to add your comment or question!
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