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Many are familiar with "In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled" (Luke 2:1 RSV). In relation to the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, it's one of the most well-known verses in the Bible, but that famous census of "the world," that is, the part of the world under the control of the Roman Empire (see Ancient Empires - Rome), which spanned a vast area across Europe from Britain to what is today Iraq (known in ancient times as Babylon), did not include the lands of the Germanic tribes between the Rhine and Elbe Rivers. The reason for that was that the mighty, highly-disciplined Roman Legions were never able to defeat the fierce, "whatever works" Germanic warlords, one of the best known of which was Hermann.

Map Of The Roman Empire

Hermann, known to the Romans as Arminius, led a force of Germanic warriors that annihilated three full Roman legions under the command of Publius Quinctilius Varus in Germany's Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, at the time when Jesus Christ was just entering His teenage years (Christ was actually born about 4 BC) back in Israel. The defeat was so severe and shocking that Caesar Augustus, and his successors (see New Testament Roman Emperors) never tried it again.

That was not the end of it however. The struggle for control of Europe between the Roman Empire (and later the Roman Church) and the Germanic warlords (and other non-military Germans, such as Martin Luther) never ceased. It continued through the New Testament era, though the entire history of Europe, and will not be completed until The Return Of Jesus Christ. The events described in Revelation 13 identify the last two actors in what has been a very long play.

Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanica

Much of all that has happened on the European continent (and the rest of the world) over the many centuries has been the result of the relationship between two very powerful and influential rulers. Sometimes they were steadfast allies, at other times they were bitter enemies, but together the Germanic kings in north-central Europe, and the Roman Catholic Popes at Rome (and elsewhere - see Antipopes) eventually formed the "Holy Roman Empire."

The empire called itself "Roman" because it claimed succession to the Caesars and the ancient Roman empire, and "holy" because it held control over mainstream European Christianity. It was as much political as it was religious - the church was the state.

On February 2, 962, Pope John XII crowned Otto I as the Holy Roman Emperor. When Otto succeeded his father Heinrich (Henry) as German king in 936, the people raised their right hand to show approval and shouted "Sieg und heil" ("victory and salvation"). Most historians view 962 as the beginning of what would later officially be known as the Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanica ("the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation") - the First Reich (Reich is the German word for Empire). Otto I's was the "First Reich," Otto von Bismarck's was the "Second Reich," and Adolf Hitler's was the "Third Reich" - and a Fourth Reich is coming.

Over the centuries, there has been a see-saw struggle between the German, or Austrian, Holy Roman emperor and the Pope as to who was the actual ruler of the empire (e.g. it was the German Emperor Charles V, a Hapsburg, that officially condemned Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms (in some countries, Diet is a legislative assembly and Vorms is a city in Germany) for his opposition against the Church of Rome). To summarize their respective claims of superiority:

  • The Popes claimed leadership by saying that the empire was merely the political arm of the church, established and maintained by "God and the Papacy." Under this arrangement, the emperor was answerable to the Pope who could dispose of the king at will - a situation that actually occurred a number of times.

  • The Imperial Frankish theory claimed that the emperor had the leadership (which fits exactly with the prophecy of end-time events) because the "divine" emperor (some of the emperors actually claimed to be God - absolute blasphemy) had a direct responsibility to God, and that the Pope was merely the emperor's "prophet" between God and the empire. The emperors claimed the right to appoint or dispose of popes at will - a situation that also actually occurred a number of times.

The octagonal imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire, made especially for the coronation of Otto I in 962, became the very symbol of European unity for centuries to come. In recent years, Otto von Hapsburg, whose ancestors were some of the Holy Roman emperors, including Charles V who officially condemned Martin Luther (see above), and whose oldest son, Karl, is today the potential heir to that heritage, called attention to the possible role of that crown of the Holy Roman Empire in the so-called New Europe, which will actually be an extremely powerful reawakening of the old Europe (see also Daniel's Statue).

Fact Finder: How was the term "Emperor" used in European history?
See Emperor

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