In Daniel 7, I always wondered the apocalyptic meaning of the ten horns of the fourth beast. Three of them are uprooted and in their place comes up the little horn. It is greater than his other fellows and utters proud boasts and blasphemies, with eyes like a man and a mouth like a man, persecuting the Holy Ones, and thinking to change the "feast days and the Law". The little horn is a type of antichrist in orthodox theology.
In Catholic Biblical theology, an apocalyptic passage usually has three layers of time fulfillment: immediate, intermediate, and long range.
Hence, for orthodox Catholics, the immediate meaning is the subkingdom that succeeded Greece--the four headed leopard (Alexander's empire was split into four parts according to his four generals)--the Selecuids, and the little horn is Antiochus IV Ephipanies, who blasphemed God by claiming deity and attempting to force the Jews to apostatize to paganism or be tortured and killed. This was the final Old Testament history before Christ came, recorded in the Maccabeean Scriptures. He also forced things against the discipline of the Old Law, forcing Jews to eat pork or be killed, or to fight on the sabbath or be killed.
The intermediate fulfillment is pagan Rome, where the little horn symbolizes the blasphemous Roman emperors, who, like Antiochus, claimed deity and viciously persecuted the Christians, the Holy Ones of New. The beast was cast into the fire when Catholicism triumphed over paganism with Constantine.
The final layer of fulfillment is rumored to be antichrist at the end of the world, where antichrist of New shall persecute the Holy Ones of the Catholic Church. It will be destroyed by Christ at the end of the world.
Now, for what I always wondered! What are these three horns that are plucked up, and in their place, a little one?
It is difficult to see how Antiochus laid low three kings. There is no immediate evidence. Similarly, there were many more Roman Emperors than ten, much less that any particular one laid siege to three others. (Seventh Day Adventists say the little horn is the Papacy, which conquered three of the Barbaric kingdoms surrounding Rome in its elderly condition, hence, usurping power as an apostate impostor of the true Church. This is obviously absurd for Catholics.) Finally, Fundamentalists like to say that the antichrist will come to power over the world by subduing three nations or regions of the world at the end.
The problem is, as I have illustrated before, that knowing how many “kings” or subdivisions of nations is meaningless and pointless in New Testament conception of apocalypse. It is only necessary to know the general ages as they are spiritually, not temporal specifics of end time things. Hence, to know that Antichrist were to take power over ten regions of the world, or rather thirteen, or lay low three of them, or seventeen of them, is irrelevant. It is only the NATURE of antichrist kingdom that matters.
And this brings us to a more Catholic approach: recall that I have written in one essay how some Catholic Fathers have seen the ten horns of the Beast and dragon of NT apocalypse as the Ten Commandments, which Satan and evil societies fight against in times of supreme evil. In that essay, we saw this theology corroborated by applying it to Apocalypse 17, in the discourse on how the ten kings shall burn up the Whore and eat her flesh.
Recall that we saw how, in the beginning of evil stages, the world is seduced by the Whore, evil humanity that divorces itself from the marriage and Covenant to God to join itself superficially and spiritually to the world and its flesh, materialism and brute glory from the things of the CreaTION, instead of everlasting love with the CreaTOR. And the essence of such spiritual condition IS the ten horns that fight with the ten commandments, for, in such materialistic societies as the Whore of Babylon, the world scoffs at God and His Law, thinking that they can preserve peace and fulfillment apart from any religion and with merely the material world and its glories, with man and his perverse ambition alone.
And for a time, like the teenager that first enjoys the fornication and alcohol, or the prodigal son with the father’s fortune, the world can enjoy its perverse infatuation with Created goods and deceive themselves that they can ignore God and His Law and still thrive and be fulfilled in prosperity.
But eventually, the “war against the ten commandments” unveils the true fruits of evil, the beast’s ten horns of living defiant of God’s moral foundation “burns and eats the Whore up”, just as the teenager can become a homeless addict on the street or a person with great psychological wounds from multiple divorces, which are many times the consequences later in life of alcohol abuse and promiscuity. Or how, eventually, the prodigal son's wealth runs out, and the famine comes. Similarly, the lawlessness and disregard for the natural principles of morals that are the only true way to secure peace and security produces its fruits in the collapse of the Whore civilization, for, if man is at war with God, how long before he turns inward toward his fellow man?
Hence, the godless society that initially prospers falls into ruin by its very godlessness, the fruits of unrighteousness unraveling its foundation (the fruits of abortion is murder of all human beings, of unfaithfulness in sex, the collapse of the family, eroding away peace in communities, giving rise to crime, violence. This in turn destroys economics, etc, forthe end is man at war with himself, family against family, community against community, city against city, nation against nation.)
Now we can see a Catholic allegorical view of the ten horns in Daniel 7. There are the ten commandments, which the beast attacks in all greater stages of evil, and which fill out the two bigger ones, according to Jesus Himself, who testified the two greatest commandments of all: Love God first and foremost, then your neighbor.
In Catholic theology, the first THREE of the ten commandments, the greatest of the ten, are dedicated to God. The remaining seven are dedicated to the lesser commandment of loving your neighbor.
Hence, the spirit of antichrist lays low the commandments of God, the first three, and sets itself up in their midst (2 Thess 2, the man of sin seats himself in the Temple of God, shewing himself as if he WERE God!). Hence, as in all three kingdom fulfillments above--the Seleucids, the Roman Empire, and the Kingdom of Antichrist--the antichrist firgure, whether singular or multiple, takes the place of God and claims to be God, determining truth independent of Him and determining for himself what is “good and evil”, as at the garden with the serpent.
Now for the Catholic / Protestant part: the Protestants make FOUR commandments for God and only SIX for your neighbor. They take the commandment against idolatry and split it in two, making the graven images commandment separate. Then they join the last two commandments into one: thou shalt not lust, thou shalt not have greed.
Lust and greed are two different things. To covet a spouse is lust, to covet goods is greed. Not the same thing, or else one is saying that adultery has the same nature as stealing.
Moreover, the whole point of graven images in the OT was IDOLATRY, not ICONS.
But behold, not all things of pagans are bad. For this reason, Mother Church took the Greek Philosophy and Christianized it, making it a weapon for reason, to enhance the intellectual defense and definition of the Church’s doctrine. Likewise, she took the blasphemous and idolatrous art of the Greeks, the statues of gods and goddesses, and made them Christian, creating images of the Divine grace in the saints.
See also, Apocalypse 12, the Woman, the Church is given two WINGS to fly to safety from the serpent for a time, in order that She may rest. Yesterday on EWTN, the priest spoke of the two wings of the head and the heart, the intellect and the will, which each elevate the human spirit to consider God and His Love. Hence, in the same Middle Ages, the Church takes from the pagans the mind, philosophy, to enhance HER mind in contemplation of God, and from them the heart, art, to enhance HER art, in order to draw us closer to God through the beauty of Sacred Images. And did not these two great pillars enable the Woman to “rest” for a time against the dragon in the Middle Ages, when the Church was largely free in Europe and whose cultural influence was at its peak in that AGE OF FAITH?
To return to the Sacred Icons, if it is true that possessing sanctifying grace makes one a partaker of the Divine Nature, in so far as sanctifying grace IS a very created sharing, even if finite, in the Love and Life of the Triune God, so icons of the saints are icons of God, for such grace DWELLS in all saints, in all those who loved God, ESPECIALLY the ones who did so HEROICALLY!
And that is also the issue: the pagans made idols of silver and gold, but Catholics make ICONS, not idols. For the pagans, the IDOLS were ends unto themselves, as if they were, in their gold, wood, silver or plaster, gods unto themselves! But ICONS are NOT the final end, they just POINT to the final end. They are images, or symbols, of God’s GRACE, which is godlike, and so glorify God.
Hence, the iconoclastic heresy: even as God put images of the holy Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant, sacred art is not forbidden. And so, it is heretics who deny the glory and beauty of imaging God’s holiness within Himself, hanging on the cross, feeding the multitudes, Risen from the Dead, and of His children, who, again, bear His likeness and Image within themselves, Divine Grace, which makes their inner beauty shine in some sense like the inner beauty of God.
And so, we say it again, icons of the saints and of the Christ, who has made visible God, are icons of God, which do not compel us to worship the wood, or plaster, or canvas ITSELF, but which draw our hearts to the Only One who can fill them, the One we worship, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
For this reason, Daniel 7 lends evidence to the right thinking of the Catholic Church on the Ten Commandments, in that, the antichrist takes the place of God and claims to be Him. For this reason, he tears out the commandments toward the Infinite God and sets up residence within them. But if such horns are THREE, so then the number of the commandments to GOD are three, and not four, as heretics would have it!