The head Wound of Rev 13,
What is it?
About 2 years ago, the author was searching through the Internet looking for information related to the book of Revelation, when an interesting Catholic web page came up among the pages on the search engines. The author clicked on the Catholic web page and began reading. What he found there was a direct challenge to another author's web site and his interpretation of the head wound of Revelation 13. The author realized that this was a challenge to anyone who believed the same way, and that the arguments of the Catholic web page would be perceived by many readers to be quite effective. So, the question arose in the author's mind, is the head wound what it is believed to be? Is the Catholic web page right? Or is there a better explanation that effectively invalidates their arguments? This web page is written to document what has been found and to show what the author believes is an effective, conclusive way to deal with the issues raised on the Catholic web page.
The belief the author and many others hold is that the head wound of the leopard beast in Revelation 13 refers to the capture of the pope in 1798 and his subsequent death in August of 1799. Along with that is the belief that the leopard beast is the combination of church and state that occurred during the dark ages, which of course, specifically refers to the fact that the Catholic Church hierarchy controlled the state sufficiently that they could order the death of anyone who disagreed with them, and the state would carry out their will accordingly. In the majority of instances, the state didn't wait for the Catholic authorities to act, but prosecuted these cases themselves. But they did so under the belief that the pope was God on earth, something that the popes themselves proclaimed. Who would not act as they did under these circumstances? But it is a false claim. This means that the 1260 days of prophetic time referred to in Revelation 13 (the 42 months) applies to the combination of the Catholic Church and the nations or states.
The Catholic web page that the author found challenged this by showing that more than one capture and killing of popes occurred before 1798, and that the prophecy as they interpret it is not specific enough to direct a person to a particular capture and killing. By this means, they also suggest the 1260 days of prophetic time does not apply to them. The author whose web site they were attacking apparently used the capture and killing event of 1798 as marking the end of the 1260 days. Click here to read their web page about this if you didn't click on it above (Please read it, for it is interesting).
Specifically, in their view, the capture and killing of the pope that occurred on Feb. 20, 1798, is not unique (which is true). They see Revelation 13:10 (capture and killing by sword) as explaining Revelation 13:3 (head wound), so there is no additional information to be gained in the head wound itself since the event is explained to be a capture and killing by the sword. Therefore, any of the prior capture and killing events of popes they mention on their web site could fulfill this prophecy completely. The logical conclusion is that as a result, one cannot mark the end of the 1260 days by this means, and thereby imply that there is no way to mark it at all, so that the 1260 days obviously does not apply to them.
The reader may or may not agree with their assessment of the Bible verses and historical events in question, but the reader cannot deny that this is an effective way to argue because many will believe the arguments of the Catholic web page. Moreover, the logic they apply is correct insofar as it goes, but they leave out several crucial pieces of information that dramatically change the outcome. Even if the reader disagrees with the quality of the argument they use, the real issue is whether their argument will likely be believed by readers of their web page. The author sees good reason to believe that their argument will be looked upon favorably by many. Thus, this creates a problem which demands a good answer. To effectively answer their challenge, one needs to find a way of conclusively proving the 1798 capture is the only one that can apply. Then, if that is true, the basis for their objection to having the 1260 days applied to them is destroyed. So, the author began to search history and the Bible to find out how their argument may be effectively negated. The author wanted effective, conclusive results from this search. Below are the results of this search.
To begin, here are all the texts in Revelation 13 that pertain to the head wound of the leopard beast:
- Rev 13:3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
- Rev 13:10 He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
- Rev 13:12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
- Rev 13:14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
Note the following facts are related in the verses above:
- The wound is to a head, not to the body of the beast (verse 3).
- It says that it is a wound by the sword to the beast (verse 14).
- Verse 10 mentions that a man who takes captive must be taken captive, and he who kills with the sword must also be killed with the sword. Since verse 14 says the wound is by a sword, this relates the sword to the capture and killing of a man.
- The wound is said to be near to death of the head, not the body. It literally says in Revelation 13:3 "And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death;". This indicates that nothing but the head is wounded near to death. The body of the beast is not wounded nor does it indicate that this wound is near to death for any of the other heads. Rationalizing that the body was wounded because the head was wounded won't work here. Only the head that is wounded experiences this effect. Thus, the wound to the beast in verse 14 is explained here to be to only one of the heads on the beast, which indicates that the word beast in verse 14 is a substitute for the head (which we see also in Daniel 7 where the beast substitutes for the talking horn in the verse where it explains that the beast is given to the flames at a time when the talking horn is in power and the body of that beast is long gone from history).
- The wound has healed by the time the earth beast is carrying out the campaign to create the image beast (verse 14 - saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.) The words "should make an image to the beast" clearly indicates a campaign - a free choice of some sort is obviously related here. The head wound is already healed by the time this campaign is underway.
- Note that nothing else is said about this - no date, no details, even who inflicts the wound is not stated (one correspondent to this web site claimed that the 6th head inflicts the wound on the 5th head, but it does not say that at all, so where did this person get THAT idea? It appears that outsiders inflict the wound for there is no evidence that the wound is self-inflicted.
So, how are you supposed to decipher what event this predicts?
The solution should be relatively straightforward. You can use the following facts to help understand this:
- First, you know that verse 14 says that the wound is to the beast. Now, the beast is quite well known to be the church-state combination that existed during the dark ages. So, to say that the wound is to the beast and then clarifying in verse 3 that it is to the head, it strongly implies that the Papacy is in some way involved with this event. It is true that the word beast is a substitute word for the head, but in this case it does carry meaning because the Papacy is half of the beast.
- Second, you know that a man is involved, a man who takes captive and kills with the sword. Revelation 13:7 tells you that the beast carries out a war against the people of God. The identity of the beast being the church-state combination of the dark ages, we know that this identifies the Papacy as that agency which did this. Since verse 10 is stated in the context of the discussion of the beast and the subject matter has not changed in verse 10 (it changes in verse 11), this strongly implies that the man who does these things, is in fact connected to the beast and is the one most responsible for it's actions - the pope. It would be very illogical for any other individual to be the target of these verses, for the popes are the head of the Papacy and it is they who used their authority to prosecute a war against the saints of God - and anyone else that dared to disagree with the popes.
Thus, all that remains to be done is to determine when a capture and killing of a pope occurred for this head wound prophecy to be fulfilled. This sounds straightforward enough. The trouble is, it is not as straightforward as it might seem at first. History sometimes has a way of being more complicated than we expect. Before getting to the issue of the capture and killing of the popes, the author wishes to explain the basis for the interpretation he derives for the head wound.
We believe it is clear that God designed and gave the visions in both Daniel and Revelation, and God would be consistent with his use of symbols whether He was designing the visions given to Daniel, or whether He was designing the visions given to John. Therefore, when God shows beasts in Daniel that are obviously prophetic and teaches us how to interpret them in that same book, we can be quite certain that the same set of interpretation principles are applicable in Revelation when prophetic beasts of a similar nature are encountered. Daniel and John were largely in the role of reporters, not interpreters, when they wrote their books (if you don't believe this, they said they wrote what they saw and John was even told once not to write something down - see Revelation 10 for details of that incident). So, it is obvious they were not interpretive commentators, but rather reporters of what they saw. It does not matter what they thought or intended. What mattered is what they reported to us. So, we can trust that God has the content there that he wants in both books and they should be studied together to properly understand both of them.
Therefore, on this web site, we apply the rules of interpretation found in Daniel to the prophetic beasts in Revelation, which results in a much more consistent interpretation pattern. You can see the rules of interpretation by clicking here. This pattern, as expressed in the rules of interpretation, can be used to help us understand the head wound, when it occurred, to whom it applied, and finally, rule out other similar events that some say could fulfill the prophecy. This clarifies the picture so that one can clearly see whether the Catholic web site is right that the 1260 days does not apply to them.
Below are illustrations that explains what is probably the most important interpretation rule of all, which the author called the Miller Principle, named after William Miller who, during 1830s and 1840s, widely taught the prophetic teachings of the book of Daniel throughout the North Eastern states in the United States. Note that this rule is NOT taken from any of Miller's Bible study rules - don't mix them up as they are not the same. This rule is simply named for him and nothing more. This rule states that a beast which has multiple heads and/or horns will represent different phases of the existence of a kingdom. The body represents the first phase, the heads the second phase, and the horns represent the third phase. In the case of the leopard beast in Daniel 7, the body represented the kingdom of Alexander the Great, while afterwards, the heads represented the four kingdoms formed by his generals who divided up his kingdom among themselves after he died. This rule also tells us that the heads must come out of the first phase of the kingdom, exist together (be concurrent, not a sequence), and have their origins in the kingdom of the previous phase.
Probably the second most important rule is the Similarity Principle, which states that if a kingdoms is political in nature in it's first phase of existence, then it will be political in nature during it's second phase as well UNLESS there is an exception stated by God in the symbolism or the text of the material describing that particular power. Likewise, a kingdom that starts out as a religious power will be religious in it's second phase as well, unless there is an exception stated for this.
Probably the third most important rule is the Concurrency Principle, which states that heads on a beast will coexist with one another. The same is true of the horn, for they will coexist with their fellow horns. Head are never sequential UNLESS it tells you otherwise, and then only for the heads it directly tells you are sequential. Those heads it is silent about will always be concurrent.
Study the illustrations below for a moment and it should make plain the ideas behind the Miller Principle, the Similarity Principle, and the Concurrency Principle.
The body represented the kingdom of Alexander the Great. He ruled a political kingdom.
The 4 heads represent the 4 kingdoms that arose out of Alexander the Great's kingdoms AFTER he died. Like his kingdom, they too ruled political kingdoms. So, heads always come AFTER the body. And likewise, horns will come AFTER the heads. Heads always attach to the body so come from a common source. Therefore, they must come after the original source in their own history.
Leopard Beast of Daniel 7
You can plainly see that you must go forward on the body of this beast to go forward in time. The heads DO come AFTER the body.
The heads represent time AFTER Feb. 15, 1798, after the time of the body.
The body represents the 1260 year power of the Papacy.
The body was Papal (religious power), so also the heads are Papal (a religious power), and represent the Papacy after Feb. 15, 1798, when the powers granted by the decree of Justinian was removed. It is after Feb. 15, 1798, that the head wound occurs. Just as the body was a religious power, the horns will also be a religious power.
Note the illustration of the wound to the head (the author chose to use the neck for the location of the wound as it is easier to illustrate), which may be something like John saw. The wound was by a sword as this illustrates.
The horns represent time AFTER the heads.
Leopard Beast of Revelation 13
The illustration above clearly indicates that the head wound had to be an event that occurred AFTER the end of the church-state combination that existed for 1260 years because (1) the wound is to the head and not to the body of the beast and (2) Daniel instructs us that the heads represent powers that come AFTER the power represented by the body of a beast. Thus, there is significance to the location of the wound on that beast. The decree of Justinian, written in 533 AD and put into effect in March of 538 AD, came to an end almost exactly 1260 years later when the French army, under the command of General Berthier, issued and enforced a decree marking the end of the Papal government on Feb. 15, 1798, and created a republic in it's place. Based on the body-heads-horns progression of time through the 3 phases of this kingdom, this means that all wounding events relating to the Papacy on or before that date would have to be shown on the body of the beast, and all events happening after that date would be shown on the heads. Therefore, the very logical conclusion is that only the event that occurred after Feb. 15, 1798, (that is, the even of Feb. 20, 1798) is shown by the head wound prophecy. It alone is the only event that can fulfill the prophecy.
The capture and killing of Pope Pius VI is an event that began on Feb. 20, 1798, 5 days AFTER the decree ended the Papal government. This date is extremely relevant because 5 days after the decree places that event in the time period of the heads, not the time of the body of that symbolic leopard beast of Revelation 13. This implies that only the capture and killing AFTER Feb. 15, 1798, has any connection with the head wound. Any prior captures and killings of popes have absolutely nothing to do with the one shown on one of the heads of the leopard beast. They are completely ignored by the prophecy and are totally irrelevant.
What exactly was accomplished by the decree of Feb. 15, 1798? The decree of Feb. 15, 1798, removed the Papal government. This means the pope was no longer able to function as head of a government that had for centuries persecuted people who worshipped God according to their conscience. Under the authority granted him by the Eastern Roman Emperor, Justinian, which became effective in March of 538 AD, he had authority to punish whatever he decided was heresy and to be the head bishop over all Christian bishops. The decree in 1798 removed this dual authority. Of course, most of the time, the popes who had this authority decided that heresy was any belief with which they disagreed. That led to all sorts of abuses, including putting people to death for their beliefs. God declares in Daniel 7 that this power will face the judgment of God for these acts, and the judgment will go in favor of the people of God - and obviously against this abuse of power. God will not let this go on forever unpunished. There will come a day of reckoning.
This decree also removed the pope's territorial and civil powers, but this is not what God counted as significant. What God counted as significant was the removal of a king, a power declared by God in Daniel 7 to be a king because he would have power over the people of God for 1260 prophetic symbolic days (which are literal years). He was not a king by God's definition in Daniel 7 UNTIL the 1260 years began, which started with a decree. Therefore, his kingship ended by the same means - with the decree removing the Papal government on Feb. 15, 1798. He gained legal authority over God's people in March of 538 AD because of the decree of Justinian, and under the terms specified in Daniel 7, this made him a king, which is why the talking horn is said to have come AFTER the 10 horns arose (remember, the Catholic Church and the popes existed before Rome fell in 476 AD). But, due to the events of Feb. 15, 1798, he no longer had authority over the people of God as of that exact date. It was over for him in regards to this authority granted to him in 538 AD. This removal of his kingship under God's definition had everything to do with the decree and absolutely nothing to do with the capture of the pope 5 days later and his subsequent death because the decree had already removed his authority over God's people. The capture and his death did not accomplish that. It was already an accomplished fact before the capture and killing.
The next logical question is: what was accomplished by the the capture of the pope on Feb. 20, 1798? The capture and consequent killing of the pope was NOT by a decree. There may have been an arrest warrant, but there was no decree by the French government ordering his capture and death that the author is aware of. Consequently, it did absolutely nothing to change the authority of his office. It neither added to nor subtracted anything at all from the authority the pope possessed on Feb. 19, 1798, (the day before his capture) because the capture and killing did not involve a decree regarding his authority as pope.
If you believe otherwise, find and present a decree authorizing his capture and killing AND removing his authority over the people of God at that same exact time. You won't find it! That authority had already been taken care of by the decree removing the Papal government.. Therefore, the capture removed the man from his office but did not change the authority the office of pope itself possessed on the day of the capture of the pope. When the next pope was elected, he had the exact same powers that Pope Pius VI possessed on the day of his capture, but not the same powers Pope Pius VI possessed on the 14th of Feb. of 1798. The decree of Feb. 15, 1798, changed his authority over the people of God on that day and that day only.
So, why was he taken prisoner? The capture and killing of the pope was a preventive against the possibility that he might attempt to violate the legal decree already in place 5 days before. He was taken captive for the simple reason that it was feared he might cause an insurrection against the French authorities if allowed to remain free in Rome. The pope, being the head of the now defunct Papal government, was not willing to recognize the new government (a republic) the French put in place of the Papal government, and it was this that led the French authorities to arrest him because of the fear that he might cause an insurrection (statements made by R. Joseph Rickaby, of the Jesuit Society in "The Modern Papacy," page 1 from the Catholic Truth Society, London, and quoted in an e-mail sent to the author on May 8, 2004).
Thus, it reinforced who was in charge as of Feb. 15, 1798, and it wasn't the pope! It also reinforces the point that the authority had already been taken from the pope, or the capture and killing probably could not have succeeded. This answers the question of what was accomplished by his capture and death in prison.
But history has a way of being more complicated than we expect. As it turns out, there was a decree concerning the death of Pope Pius VI (but NOT his capture). In 1793, the French held a convention in which they essentially outlawed all religion because of the abuses by the Papacy in their own history, abuses that truly had been extreme. Then, in 1797, the pope became very ill, and Napoleon, seeking to take advantage of the situation, gave orders that in the event of the pope's death, there were to be no successor popes elected and by this means the Papacy was to be stopped right there in it's tracks. But the pope recovered and did not die (statements made by R. Joseph Rickaby, of the Jesuit Society in "The Modern Papacy," page 1, Catholic Truth Society, London, quoted in e-mail sent to the author on May 8, 2004). Of course, this decree would have been problematic for Napoleon to enforce because at that time he did not own Rome, so his decree was worthless unless he marched in and took it over. Then, and only then, could he enforce such a decree.
In 1798, Napoleon's army did take over Rome and the pope was taken captive to prevent an insurrection against the French authorities. And then the pope died. Now, Napoleon had a choice. Either enforce the decree, or don't enforce it. He chose not to. In the spring of 1800, Pope Pius VII was elected the next pope. But because of the decree of Feb. 15, 1798, the pope was without civil or territorial powers (and without powers over the people of God as mentioned in Daniel 7), so decided to try and resurrect the Papacy as it had once been. Of course, this ultimately resulted in his being taken captive by the French army. He was let go eventually, probably because they decided that he had gotten the point by being captured and hauled off to prison. He survived as pope until 1823.
The decree Napoleon gave concerning pope Pius VI did NOT change his authority over the people of God. It was not even used to order the pope's arrest, for the decree contained no such authorization. The only thing it did was state that in the event of Pope Pius VI's death, there were to be no more successors elected, thereby bringing the Papacy to an end. When Napoleon had it within his power to enforce this decree, he chose not to. Thus, the decree was worthless and has absolutely no bearing on the prophecy simply because it was never enforced. The only decrees relevant to prophecy are those which are enforced. Had Napoleon enforced that decree, the Papacy itself, not just the head, would have come to an end right there. But as it was, only the head was wounded, not the body of the beast itself.
In the final analysis, this interpretation method using the body-heads-horns time progression as presented on this web page, eliminates all other possible captures and killings of the popes as contenders for fulfillment of the prophecy of the head wound, for those other capture and killing events prior to 1798 are simply ignored in the prophecy. The only one shown is the one that had to have occurred after the decree of Feb. 15, 1798 because it is shown on one of the heads of that beast. Nothing else is left. This makes the capture of the pope on Feb. 20, 1798, totally unique and is conclusive proof that the prophecy can refer only to the event of that day.
Hopefully, this helps the reader better understand the prophecy of the head wound.