In a general way, these words are fulfilled whenever true Christians are persecuted by the rulers of western Christendom. It was fulfilled many times in the past, and yes – it is being fulfilled again today, in Europe, through the diabolical European Union. The EU is extremely dangerous to European Christians, and through EU legislation the net is closing in on Christians. All kinds of legislation is being brought in, to restrict Christians and to punish them if they violate the legislation. For example, the pro-sodomy legislation that has been enacted: when Christians take a stand against this, they are persecuted. Or the legislation regarding raising children, disciplining them, etc.: if Christians act according to the Scriptures, they are persecuted. Or interfaith legislation: if Christians speak out against false religion, they may now be persecuted.
But this has happened many times before, in Europe. True Christians through the centuries have been terribly persecuted by European Roman Catholic powers. This is not new, it is not unique to our times.
And more particularly, the fulfilment of these words occurred in the period before the Protestant Reformation: those terrible Dark Ages, when the Papacy massacred huge numbers of Christians by making use of the political and military power of the European Roman Catholic kings. Rome’s control over those kings was so great at that time that they did whatever the popes of Rome told them to do. And the popes of Rome instructed them to persecute the followers of the Lamb unto death! The persecution continued through the centuries. Wars, massacres, bloodshed, tortures, cruelties of all kinds. Year after year, century after century: the Waldenses; Albigenses; Anabaptists; Lollards; and so many others.
V.14 then says: “and the Lamb shall overcome them”. This is so encouraging. In general, the meaning is that despite all that these Papist European powers have sought to do to Christ’s true Church, He has protected it. Yes, many have been killed; but has the true Church ceased to exist on the earth? No! The gates of hell have not prevailed against it. Christ has overcome, and will continue to do so.
But more specifically, this was fulfilled when, despite the Papist European nations warring against the true Church through the Dark Ages, the time came when the Lord sent the Reformation! And so the Lamb overcame the horns, by causing some of those very nations, once so Papist, to cast off the Papal yoke and become independent of the pope’s authority. And those nations then became places of refuge for the Lord’s persecuted people – as did the colonies they established, such as in America, South Africa, and elsewhere. After centuries of suffering at the hands of the European Papist powers, the Lord Jesus Christ overcame them by changing the political landscape, bringing in much more religious freedom, stopping many of the persecutions, etc.
The Historical Commencement of the “Ten Kings” Destroying the Whore of Rome
V. 16 says: “And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.”
What an awful and graphic description! At first they love the Romish harlot; but they end up hating her, as Amnon hated Tamar after he lay with her, even though he loved her before. But when, and why?
Now, when did the ten kings end up hating the Whore, which is the Roman Catholic “Church”?
They started to do so at the time of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, when some of those nations and their monarchs rejected the control of the so-called “Church” of Rome and its pope. And that hatred continued into the time of the French Revolution – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that hatred was re-ignited then. For so long they had loved her; but now they saw through many of her lies, deceits, treacheries, and how she had used and abused them for centuries, taking their wealth, their people, and generally suppressing them in all kinds of ways.
But did all ten of the horns end up hating the Whore? Hatred cannot always be seen. It may simmer in the heart, without being noticed on the outside. It is true that not all ten attacked the Whore, made her desolate and naked, or burned her, at the time of the Reformation or the French Revolution; but certainly all ten hated her! After all those centuries of suppression, there was deep-seated hatred towards her, but not all acted upon it.
Besides, when it says that the ten hated her, made her desolate and naked, and burned her with fire, we do not have to read this as meaning all ten literally did these things. The ten are always united in prophetic Scripture, even though history shows that not all ten act in the same way, nor to the same degree. But what some of them do is written of as if all of them did it, because the horns are always written of as a group of ten.