Three Angel's Messages shared with the world

Head #4 - The Papacy (Rev. 17)

Head #4 on the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit

Revelation Time Period #4:
752 AD - 1299 AD

The time during which Head #4 was the dominant ruling power in the realm corresponds to the 4th time period of Revelation, which also corresponds to the 4th Church, the 4th Seal and the 4th Trumpet.


When the papacy became the dominant political power in 752 AD, the power of the Frankish Merovingian dynasty came to an end. However, the Franks continued as the major state power in the realm, but now gaining power and legitimacy as Christian rulers because of Papal endorsement and the uniting of church and state in government (see Head #3 for details on the papal take-over of the realm).

As previously discussed, the papacy was a small state, only made powerful as rulers of other kingdoms cooperated with it. Emperors, especially during the first half of this period, viewed themselves as protectors and overseers of the papacy. As the papal power grew, the papacy started asserting itself as overseer of the emperor. But, whether kings or pope had the upper hand, the papacy was still the power that could legitimize the ruler.

Especially with the crowning of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III in 800 AD, the church came to be recognized as in "power of control of the imperial dignity,"1 going on to achieve "near total religious dominance"2 and established the precedent that "no man would be emperor without anointment by a pope."3

Charlemagne became a champion of Christianity, making it his mission to make all come under the authority of the pope. Indeed, the empire was strengthened because of the common bonds of membership in the Roman Church. The title of Emperor came to be accompanied with the role of protector of the Church. Charlemagne adopted the title "Charles, most serene Augustus, crowned by God, great and pacific emperor, governing the Roman empire."4

"The expansion of the Frankish Kingdom, the conversion of the Germans to Catholic Christianity, the rise of the papacy to a position of unprecendented secular and spiritual authority in alliance with the Frankish rulers, all reached their culmination in the reign of Charlemagne."5 This laid the foundations for the development of the Holy Roman Empire.
"The central purpose of Charlemagne, to the service of which all his policies and his conduct were directed, was the maintenance of the Christian religion as embodied in the Western Church, whose great champion he became, and in that character occupies his lofty place in the history of Europe and of the world. At this period the two great powers in the Christian world were the Roman pontiff and the Frankish king; and when, on Christmas Day, A.D. 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans, and in the Holy Roman Empire restored the Western Empire, extinct since 476, he welded church and state in what long proved to be indissoluble bonds, somewhat - it must be added - to the chagrin of the Byzantine emperors of the Eastern Roman Empire at Constantinople. This was an event the significance of which only later times could learn to estimate. The Holy Roman Empire henceforth held a leading part in the world's affairs, the influence of which is still active in the survivals of its power among nations."6
Through Charlemagne and then his successors, the papacy exercised political dominance for hundreds of years. This authority extended out across Europe, way beyond the small territory of the Papal States and "in fact many kingdoms were vassals of the Holy See and the Popes were directly involved in the choosing of many rulers, especially the Holy Roman Emperors. Usually the Popes were also involved as primary judges and counselors in all the questions of marriage and succession regarding many kings."7

During this time, feudalism developed as the Carolingian dynasty expanded its territory, and the relationship between lord and vassal evolved. This type of system forms a pyramid of power, where loyalty at each level ensures its strength. At the top of the pyramid would sit the ultimate ruler of all levels. The church became "enmeshed, as an institution and as individual clergymen, in the feudal structure of political-economic power."8 It is very revealing of the political situation during the middle ages that "by the end of the 12th century the papacy has more feudal vassals than any temporal ruler."9

The foundation for the Holy Roman Empire as laid by the Carolingians, was later established by Otto the Great. He launched the Ottonian dynasty of German kings (936 to 1024 AD) and earned a reputation as the savior of Christendom after defeating the pagan Magyars in 955.

The Salian dynasty followed the Ottonians, ruling the Holy Roman Empire from 1027 to 1125 AD. Their rule coincided with the great Investiture Controversy, a conflict between church and state over who would name church officials. These local officials, bishops and abbots, controlled significant amounts of wealth and land. The nobility, who owned the land, would sell these offices (a practice known as simony) or appoint a trusted person to these positions.

The extent of the Church's power over temporal matters has been a point of controversy, even among those within the Catholic Church. There are two theories put forth by theologians in the Catholic Encyclopedia. The first is that of Direct Power, which maintains "that the pope had direct power over temporal as over spiritual matters... Consequently the popes are the supreme rulers of the world in both spiritual and temporal matters, they keep the spiritual power in their own hands, while they delegate the temporal to emperors and kings."10

The second theory is that of Indirect Power, in which the Church has supreme power in spirital matters, but only in temporal matters in that which relates to the salvation of souls or the worship of God:
"Christian emperors and kings were supreme within the limits of their temporal authority. However, in as much as all must give way when there is question of the salvation of souls... so all impediments to salvation must be removed. He therefore, who has the care of the salvation of soul should have the power to remove any impediment to salvation, even if it be caused by a Christian emperor or kings. Besides, Christian emperors and kings are children of the Church, and as such subject to the supreme rulers of the Church"11
A Christian kingdom, such as the Holy Roman Empire of the middle ages, ruled by Catholic kings and emperor, would therefore be ultimately subject to the papacy. As this period progressed towards its end, the idea of indirect control simply meant that the pope had delegated power to the ruler."12

By the 11th century, though the West continued to affirm that Christendom was subject to the pope in Rome, the papal secular power came under increasing power struggles. There was a cooperation between church and state, yet the question of supremacy would inevitable come to the forefront with varying intensity.

The church in Rome won a major victory in the pope-king power struggle when, in 1059, it declared that popes would be selected by a College of Cardinals instead of the nobility. It went further, in 1075, by officially pronouncing that only the pope could depose emperors.13 A series of reforms initiated by Pope Gregory VII (1073-85) followed by the resolution of the controversy "was an overwhelming papal victory that by implication acknowledged papal superiority over secular rulers."14

This power struggle was epitomized by Pope Gregory and emperor Henry III, as they battled for supremacy in 1077 AD. Gregory asserted that "as the soul is more important than the body, so the spiritual is higher than the secular authority."15 Henry deposed Gregory, and Gregory excommunicated the emperor. Henry ended up standing barefoot in the snow for three days before the pope's castle at Canossa, pleading for absolution. He received it, the ban of excommunication was dropped and his nobles returned to their allegiance. The struggle continued, but this precedent of recognizing the pope's spiritual authority had a great influence in later generations.

In 1157 AD, a new turn was encountered as Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, rejected any implication of papal overlordship, claiming that he held the empire from God alone by the election of the princes. In 1198, Pope Innocent III (r.1198-1216) pushed back in a letter written to the prefect Acerbius and nobles of Tuscany, comparing the papal authority to the sun and the royal power to the moon, the latter only reflecting the splendor of the former. He claimed authority over the empire because (a) authority over the empire was originally transferred to the papacy from Greece and (b) the emperor is raised to his position and invested with authority by the pope.16

Amidst all these power struggles, the papacy triumphed over the realm, reaching a height of secular power during Innocent's reign (1198-1216).17 As stated in John Earle's Manual of the Lives of the Popes, during Innocent's reign, "almost all the States of Europe were then subject to the Holy See, and there was not one who had not reason to rejoice in the influence that See exerted; while it hesitated not to depose any monarch who opposed with violence its rights and authority."18

One of the Papal triumphs can be seen in England during the early 13th century. John, King of England, had serious disputes with Pope Innocent III, who eventually issued a bull of excommunication and a sentence of deposition in 1209 AD, absolving John's subjects from their oath of allegiance. After threat of invasion, John yielded, taking an oath of fealty to the Pope on May 15, 1213, resigning his dominions to the Holy See.19

As the struggle for power continued, the Hohenstaufen kings and emperors (1138 to 1254) introduced another point of contention with the church:
"Unlike earlier emperors, who had based their position on their special relation with the church, the Hohenstaufen emperors emphasized its secular foundations. Against Pope Innocent III's claims to confer the imperial crown, imperial lawyers asserted that 'he who is chosen by the election of the princes alone is the true emperor, even before he has been confirmed by the pope.'"20
In spite of those efforts, the papacy went on to subdue the Hohenstaufen emperors during the 13th century, and the imperial rule collapsed to the point of being without an emperor from 1254 to 1273. Meanwhile the kings of France and England were steadily increasing their power, leaving behind the feudal chaos of the high middle ages, and the German princes were taking advantage of the opportunity to establish their own independence.21

In view of these successes, by the mid 13th century, the popes, who had called themselves the "Vicar of St. Peter," began using the title of "Vicar of Christ."22 There was an aggrandizement of Papal power to astounding heights.

The papacy's foremost concern was with the setting up and enforcement of laws. In fact, most of the popes from the mid 12th century to the beginning of the 14th century were lawyers. The Papal organization became massive. It was
"constantly engaged in war or the preparation of war, in diplomacy, in the management of estates, in the assessment and collection of taxes; but by far the most highly developed part of the organization was that which dealt with the various stages of legal processes... Every important ecclesiastical and secular person or corporation in Europe had to be familiar with the procedure of the papal curia, and the most important had proctors permanently retained to look after their interests in the labyrinth of papal government."23
This time period also encompasses the age of the Crusades. From 1095 to 1291, nine major crusades were organized for the sake of Christendom. Thousands eagerly joined the ranks as they were promised freedom from all moral obligations, forgiveness of past sins, forgiveness of future sins while crusading, and release from pain in purgatory.


Ironically, the papacy's success in decreasing the power of the emperors, also served to diminish their own prestige and their hold over the minds of the people. Historians date the major decline of the papacy's secular power as beginning during the time of Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303), whose activities made enemies of many kings and greatly damaged the reputation of the papacy.
"Boniface insisted upon ridiculous claims over all temporal rulers and said, 'We declare, state, define and pronounce that for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pope is altogether necessary for salvation.' The very arrogance of these papal claims, however, irritated many rulers and provoked violent reactions. Boniface was captured by Philip the Fair of France, and he was so badly treated that he died within a month. Many in the secular and religious world were fed up with papal pride and church corruption. There was stirring for either the reform of the Roman Church, or the complete overthrow of it."24
The Catholic Encyclopedia refers to Boniface's pontificate as marking in history "the decline of the medieval power and glory of the papacy".25 It describes that "he failed either to recognize the altered temper of the times, or to gauge accurately the strength of the forces arrayed against him; and when he attempted to exercise his supreme authority in temporal affairs as in spiritual, over princes and people, he met almost everywhere with a determined resistance."26

The 13th century saw more and more kings and princes attempting to "put their foot down" in certain temporal matters. In addition, the character of the Holy Roman Empire changed as the emperor's power gradually weakened in favour of the princes.27 By the beginning of the 14th century, the elite group of princes who elected emperors exerted their growing power to not just be electors in name only, but to be the real power in determining who would receive the crown.
"The power of the electors as well as the weakness of the crown after 1273 are shown by the fact that the electors compelled the king to secure their express and written consent before taking any important action. By this means the electors hoped to control the policy of the king and to make their own positions secure. If what the king proposed to do was not to their interest, they made him pay well for their consent."28
This transition in power revolves around the dramatic conflict between Pope Boniface VIII, Albert I and King Philip IV of France. Philip, needing funding for his war with England, had levied a tax on church properties in 1296. This challenge to the power of the church resulted in a string of retaliations between pope and king. This altercation is notable, because it was the first time the temporal power of the papacy was attacked by France.29

Albert, the son of Rudolph I, King of the Romans, was passed over by the electors in favor of Adolph of Nassau. Adolph was part of a league formed by Edward, King of England, against Philip, so in revenge Philip offered to help Albert gain the throne. Three electors decided to join the cause and authorized Albert to go and ask the Pope to crown him the King of the Romans. This right of the Pope to confirm the position had been acknowledged for hundreds of years.
"For the Roman Pontiffs claimed as theirs the right to examine the chosen king of the Romans, to anoint him, to consecrate him, and to declare his fitness for ruling. Nor was this an assumption of rights. The Electors themselves acknowledged it; for they found no other legal argument for substituting Albert in place of Adolph than that of obtaining Papal letters, which would appoint the Hapsburg Prince to the royal dignity."30
Albert sent his ambassador to Pope Boniface, who didn't see the Pope but returned with forged letters of confirmation. Adolph hurried to Rome and obtained word that Boniface did not hear from or confirm Albert. This news was given to the electors, however, they went ahead anyway and announced Albert as King of the Romans in 1298. War followed, in which Albert killed Adolph in 1299.

Albert sent another message to Boniface asking him to confirm him as King of the Romans. But, the Pope saw Albert as a violent usurper and refused to recognize Albert as king and thus future emperor.

The two kings (Albert and Philip) therefore had a common opponent and concluded an alliance in 1299 against Pope Boniface. "Philip was by this time bent upon the ruin of pope Boniface and the overthrow of the papal influence in France: Albert had no immediate objects in view other than to obtain the imperial crown, and to establish his power in Germany - if need were - in spite of the Pope."31

The elector's choice would be enforced, in spite of the papacy's commands. The forces arrayed against him were too powerful for the Pope, yet he still would not yield or give in to the Franco-German alliance. Instead he attempted to puff up his own power, even claiming to be emperor himself.32


The political power of the papacy never fully recovered. "The Pontificate of Boniface VIII is the beginning of a transition period; it exhibits the sinking of the papal power and the rising of the secular state-idea hostile to the Church. The subordination of the secular under the spiritual order was denied. The See of Peter was shaken but not destroyed."33

When Pope Boniface published his bull, Unam sanctam, in 1302 AD, defining the spiritual as superior to the temporal power, he was met with captivity, mistreatment and defamation at the hands of temporal rulers.34 The papacy's authority and prestige declined further, especially during the so-called "Babylonian Captivity," when Philip of France and his successors exerted control over the papacy. This exile began in 1309 when the papacy was moved to Avignon, France, and lasted until 1377 when Pope Gregory XI moved the office back to Rome.

During those years in Avignon, the major beginnings of anti-papal movements arose. The French government and the University of Paris became "utterly disgusted" with the "shameless immorality" of the papal court.35 This developed into revolts from papal domination, which occurred in Germany (Louis the Bavarian), England (Wycliffe) and Bohemia (Huss), and many considered the pope as antichrist.36

The political power of the papacy continued to decline following its move back to Rome. Even the tradition of emperors being coronated by the pope was set aside by Maximilian I (ruled 1493-1519). Charles V was the last Emperor to receive a papal coronation, when Pope Clement VII crowned him in 1530.
"Martin V and Eugenius IV had done much to restore the papal authority, but the popes were still far from possessing the powers they had had before the fall of Boniface VIII. Never again could they exercise effective supremacy over secular rulers, and even within the church their control was limited by the practical power of the great state governments... The century and a half between the bull Unam sanctam and the dissolution of the Council of Basle [1449 AD] had, indeed, witnessed a terrible decline in papal prestige, even though some considerable recovery of papal power had been made after the Council of Constance. The financial exactions of the popes at Avignon and the scandal of the Great Schism, the political theories of Occam and the Defensor pacis, the sweeping criticisms of the church launched by Wyclif and Huss, the consiliar movement and the growing power of the national monarchies had all contributed to the destruction of papal authority, and the fifteenth-century popes, who were more interested in establishing a temporal state in Italy than in giving religious leadership to Christendom, could not win back what had been lost."37

The 1260 years verses the 4th Trumpet time period

It is important to clarify the difference between the 1260 year time period (538 - 1798 AD) in prophecy and the 4th Trumpet time period (752 - 1299 AD) as it applies to the papacy.

When the eastern Emperor declared the Pope to be head over all the churches (533 AD), and his general Belisarious overthrew three tribes that did not fall in line with the beliefs of the papacy (Heruli, Vandals and finally the Ostrogoths in 538 AD - see Daniel 7:8, 20), the papacy was freed to rule in Rome and became the most powerful ecclesiastical influence in the Roman realm. Prophecy predicted this power would extend for 1260 years until 1798 AD, at which time Napoleon's general captured the Pope and the papacy was considered at an end. The pope died a prisoner in 1800 and it looked as though "the papacy had reached the nadir of its modern existence" with no possibility of it being strengthened.38

This is the time period the papacy was allowed, as the Bible puts it, to "trample on the sanctuary" and "overcome the saints," among other things. It was allowed to control and corrupt the Christian church from within, and influence state powers to persecute God's people. This was the time of its ecclesiastical dominance.

The 1260 year period is described in the Bible as a time that the Papal power would have a large degree of control over God's people. Look at the descriptions for the time period given in each Bible passage that mention the time period specifically. The descriptions of the 1260 years are clearly related to spiritual matters.

Bible verse Description / Activities Time period Calculation Prophetic Time (1 day = 1 yr)
Daniel 7:25 - wear out the saints
- saints given into his hand
- change times and laws
time and times and the dividing of time (A Time = 1 Year) 1 year + 2 years + 1/2 year = 3-1/2 years = 1260 days 1260 years
Daniel 12:7 - scatter the power of the holy people a time, times and an half 1 year + 2 years + 1/2 year = 3-1/2 years = 1260 days 1260 years
Rev. 11:2 - tread upon the holy city forty and two months 42 months x 30 days = 1260 days 1260 years
Rev. 11:3 - witnesses (Bible) prophesy in sackcloth and are finally killed a thousand two hundred and threescore days 1000 + 200 + 60 = 1260 days 1260 years
Rev. 12:14 - the woman (church) hides from persecution in wilderness a time, and times, and half a time 1 year + 2 years + 1/2 year = 3-1/2 years = 1260 days 1260 years
Rev. 12:6 - the woman (church) is fed in wilderness a thousand two hundred and threescore days 1000 + 200 + 60 = 1260 days 1260 years
Rev. 13:5 - speaks great things and blasphemes God, his tabernacle and them that dwell in heaven
- makes war with the saints and overcomes them
forty and two months 42 X 30 = 1260 days 1260 years

It is a time period when God's Word is suppressed, His ministry in the tabernacle is supplanted, and His true followers are persecuted. The papacy would have the dominant power in religious matters for this time period.

On the other hand, the time period of the 4th Trumpet/Head (752 AD to 1299 AD) marks the papacy's political dominance in the realm, when it was the legimitizing factor for the rulers of a Christian Empire. They were still able to convince emperors, kings and princes to do much of their bidding related to spiritual matters (executing heretics, banning certain books, etc.) during the 1260 years, but they were only politically dominant and had a hand in controlling who was crowned emperor from 752 AD to 1299 AD. It is important to keep these time periods distinguished.

Ecclesiastical Dominance: 538 to 1798 (control of the Christian church - time of the 1260 years)


Political Dominance: 752 to 1299 (control of the seats of power - 4th Trumpet time period)

Continue to: Head #5
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