Is the Papacy the King of the North?

John Witcombe

The king of the north in Daniel 11:40-45 just has to be the papacy! This was the view of Martin Luther back in the 16th century. In 1798 the time of the end began and the book of Daniel was unsealed. Now men began to study this book in earnest and knowledge of the prophecies was increased just as God said would happen. Now that God was opening up men’s understanding, what did some of the prominent Millerites teach on this topic?

Josiah Litch, in 1838, 1841 and 1842, clearly spelled out in publications just who the kings of the north and south were:

“The king of the south shall push at him.” At whom? The answer is, at the subject of prophecy in the preceding verses-the revolutionary government of France. That power is clearly antecedent to “him,” in this verse. “The king of the south.” And who is the king of the south? The answer is given in the exposition of the first six verses of the chapter, which the reader can examine. It is clearly the government of Egypt. I do not know that there is a dissenting voice to the application of this term to Egypt in the former part of this chapter; nor can I see any good reason why there should be in the latter part, as long as it was literally fulfilled in Egypt. That a collision did actually take place between the French and Egypt is notorious. In the winter of 1798, after Bonaparte’s return from his Italian campaign, he was appointed by the directory, commander-in-chief of the foreign armies of the French nation; and in that character he left France, on the morning of May 20th, 1798, with a fleet “of thirteen ships of the line, and fourteen frigates, and four hundred transports. They carried 40,000 picked soldiers and officers.” On the 1st of July they reached the coast of Egypt, and landed the army about a mile and a half from Alexandria. “Shall push.” The weakness of this term signifies only a feeble and ineffectual resistance. The contrast is the more remarkable when compared with the strength of the next clause-“The king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind;”-shall come with an overwhelming power. . . . “Like a whirlwind.” The king of the north, it is universally acknowledged, signifies in this chapter, Syria, as being the northern division of the empire of Alexander the Great. Josiah Litch, Prophetic Expositions, vol. 2, pp.99-102 [1842] (emphasis supplied).

Why did Josiah Litch not believe that the papacy was the king of the north? Now that Daniel was an unsealed book and knowledge on the prophecies was rapidly increasing, it was found that such a conclusion was untenable when using Miller’s prophetic rules of interpretation. His position on the king of the north was “universally acknowledged”.

The Seventh-day Adventist church, between the years 1862 and 1872, conducted a thorough investigation of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. They too came to the same conclusion on the identity of the kings of the north and south and their findings were recorded in Uriah Smith’s book, Daniel and the Revelation. (See 4T 592)

Then why do most Seventh-day Adventists today reject the findings of these pioneers? Many have not done the careful investigation that our pioneers conducted and yet they conclude that Martin Luther had it right even though he never showed how it was that he arrived at his conclusions on the king of the north. No one is able to show from the text of Daniel 11 itself where it is actually stated that civil Rome was ever the king of the north, and yet it is believed that civil Rome just had to be the king of the north. It is believed that if civil Rome was a king of the north then it would naturally follow that papal Rome would also have to be a king of the north. Important hermeneutical rules of prophetic interpretation are violated by this approach to the prophecies thus leading to inaccurate conclusions. We treat no other prophecy with such disregard of the prophetic interpretive rules.

Typically, the following presuppositions are brought to Daniel 11:

  1. The last power brought to view in Dan. 7 and 8 is papal Rome; thus the last power must be the same in Dan. 11
  2. Jesus is the true King of the North—a position Satan wants thus Dan. 11:40-45 is a spiritual battle—not literal
  3. Babylon was the king of the north—any power that attacked Israel from the north became the king of the north
  4. Civil Rome was the king of the north even though she conquered and occupied both the north and south territories

There are no scriptural references that directly state any of these four points and yet many surmise that they must be true.

If we would adopt the same rules of prophetic interpretation that William Miller identified—rules endorsed by the Spirit of Prophecy—that, by the way, dictate a literal interpretation of these verses, I believe that we too would come to the same conclusions on Daniel 11:40-45 as those of our early pioneers.

The Final Waymark

“The world is stirred with the spirit of war. The prophecy of the eleventh chapter of Daniel has nearly reached its complete fulfilment. Soon the scenes of trouble spoken of in the prophecies will take place.” 9T 14

The last event of the prophecy of Daniel 11 is found in verse 45. When this verse is fulfilled, Daniel 11 will have then reached its complete fulfilment. What follows its fulfilment? Scenes of trouble: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time:” Daniel 12:1. These scenes of trouble will soon take place but not until Daniel 11 reaches its complete fulfillment. Daniel 11 provides us waymarks to help us know just how close we are to the scenes of trouble that lie ahead.

The term “prophecies” in the ninth volume of the Testimonies statement indicates multiple prophecies. What other prophecies of the Bible describe future scenes of trouble? Revelation 13:11-17 and Revelation 16 amongst others.

All of Daniel 11 deals with trouble that has transpired on this earth over the centuries but that isn’t the trouble Ellen White was speaking of when she said, speaking of the future: “Soon the scenes of trouble spoken of in the prophecies will take place.” If she was referring specifically to the trouble found in Daniel 11 it seems that she would have used the same tense of the word “prophecy” that is found in the previous sentence. Perhaps she would have written: “Soon the scenes of trouble spoken of in this prophecy will take place.”

Daniel 11 is a prophecy of waymarks that we are to mark off to let us know where we are in the stream of time. When Daniel 11 reaches its completion, the final scenes of trouble will fulfill rapidly and then Jesus will return.

“There is need of a much closer study of the Word of God; especially should Daniel and the Revelation have attention as never before in the history of our work. We may have less to say in some lines, in regard to the Roman power and the Papacy, but we should call attention to what the prophets and apostles have written under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit has so shaped matters, both in the giving of the prophecy, and in the events portrayed, as to teach that the human agent is to be kept out of sight, hid in Christ, and the Lord God of heaven and His law are to be exalted.” –Counsels to Editors, pp. 45, 46. (1896)  {Ev 577.1}

Why will we have less to say? Because a new power takes the stage of action:

“I saw that the two-horned beast had a dragon’s mouth, and that his power was in his head, and that the decree would go out of his mouth. Then I saw the Mother of Harlots; that the mother was not the daughters, but separate and distinct from them. She has had her day, and it is past, and her daughters, the Protestant sects, were the next to come on the stage and act out the same mind that the mother had when she persecuted the saints. I saw that as the mother has been declining in power, the daughters had been growing, and soon they will exercise the power once exercised by the mother.  {SpM 1.4}

Our attention should be directed at the daughters. They are the ones growing in power and will soon exercise the power once exercised by the mother. We would not want to put a focus on the papacy but rather we should have less to say regarding Rome and more to say regarding Protestantism.

Daniel 11:30-39 is right on target. Those verses are revealing the power of the papacy during its day. Right on time, at the time of the end it received its deadly wound and has from that time been declining in power. It may be becoming more popular and accepted today than it was in the days when EGW wrote what she did but the power she really wants won’t be hers but rather given to her daughters. They will be the ones to repeat the history of verses 30-39 as Ellen White said. Any interpretation of verses 40-45 that places the attention on the papacy is in error.


Letter from J. N. Loughborough.

Sanitarium, California. March 25, 1915.

Wilfrid Belleau, College Place, Washington, (Box 3)

Dear Brother,

Your letter of recent date received. Yesterday I mailed to you a copy of the book on the sealing message.

And I have sent a dime to the Pacific Press requesting them to mail to you a copy of “Prophetic Gift in the Gospel Church.” As to where you can get information on “the king of the North,” I think you will find it in Bro. Daniel’s book on “The World War.” Brother Uriah Smith laid no claims to “inspiration,” but his view on the king of the North is well established by Sister White in speaking of one occasion when he spoke on the “Eastern Question.” This you can read in Volume 4 of the Testimonies, page 278-279 where she called the discourse “a subject of special interest.” etc. It would bother those holding another view than what he advocated to find a word from her favoring their views.

One Brother who had intimated in his writing on the subject that the king of the North might be the pope, told me that Sister White told him he “never should have intimated any such thing, and that his idea would only create confusion.” This was not put in print, but it was what he told me in Autumn 1878.

Yours in the blessed hope, J. N. Loughborough.


Now if Loughborough was an honest man and his memory served him right, we can see why our pioneers believed that the king of the north was not the papacy. And this all makes sense when we know that the papacy is not the focus of attention but rather the daughters are. Now Rome still is the mother and her deadly wound will be healed and her principles will be at work through her daughters and she will have her influence in the old world while the daughters work their evil in the new world during the Sunday law crisis.

“And let it be remembered, it is the boast of Rome that she never changes. The principles of Gregory VII. and Innocent III. are still the principles of the Romish Church. And had she but the power, she would put them in practice with as much vigor now as in past centuries. Let the principle once be established in the United States, that the church may employ or control the power of the State; that religious observances may be enforced by secular laws; in short, that the authority of church and State is to dominate the conscience, and the triumph of Rome in this country is assured.  {GC88 580.3}

God’s Word has given warning of the impending danger; let this be unheeded, and the Protestant world will learn what the purposes of Rome really are, only when it is too late to escape the snare. She is silently growing into power. Her doctrines are exerting their influence in legislative halls, in the churches, and in the hearts of men. She is piling up her lofty and massive structures, in the secret recesses of which her former persecutions will be repeated. Stealthily and unsuspectedly she is strengthening her forces to further her own ends when the time shall come for her to strike. All that she desires is vantage-ground, and this is already being given her. We shall soon see and shall feel what the purpose of the Roman element is. Whoever shall believe and obey the Word of God will thereby incur reproach and persecution.”  {GC88 581.1}bookcover6

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Posted on 19/10/2014, in Daniel 11, The King of the North and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.


    Martin Luther was right and for those who will truly accept
    what the Scripture text actually says will say, “How could we
    miss it !” I am sending the proof for Luther’s position in a few days,
    pray for the Spirit’s guidance !

    I just finished reading the complete posting of “Just has to be the Papacy”.


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