Revelation Chapter 13 (Part 5: Ten Fulfilled Prophecies)


REVELATION 13 (Part 5: Ten Fulfilled Prophecies Regarding the Beast)

Adam Maarschalk: October 22 & 29, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 13:1-18

By way of reviewing the previous four posts, the following is a chart indicating what was foretold regarding “the beast from the sea” in Revelation 13 and 17, and how these things were true of Nero and the empire he led, represented, and personified. In some cases it would be possible for another entity aside from Nero to fulfill one of these prophecies (being identified with “666,” for example), but the fact that each one of these prophecies fits Nero and first-century Rome makes for a very compelling case that the fulfillment of Revelation 13 is past and not future. Keep in mind, as we noted in Part 1 of this Revelation 13 series, that the beast is seen in both the singular and the general sense (i.e. as an individual, and at the same time as an empire).

10 PROPHECIES REGARDING THE BEAST FROM THE SEA

FULFILLMENT BY NERO/THE ROMAN EMPIRE

1. The beast was to have ten horns, which would carry it, give to it their own power and authority, persecute the saints, and finally turn on the “great prostitute” to the point of burning her with fire (Rev. 13:1; 17:3, 7, 12-14, 16-17).

The Roman Empire contained 10 Senatorial Provinces, and the governors of each one granted their authority to Rome and also exercised authority on its behalf (See Part 1). This included aiding in Nero’s persecution of the saints, and carrying out the Roman war against Israel which resulted in the burning of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

2. The beast had seven heads. To John it was explained that the seven heads represented not only the “seven mountains on which the woman is seated,” but also “seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is [in John’s day], the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while” (Rev. 13:1; 17:3, 7, 9-10).

Rome is the one city in history famous for its seven mountains, and first-century Rome celebrated the feast of the “seven-hilled city.” According to Josephus, Dio Cassius, Suetonius, and other historians, the first five Roman emperors (or “kings”; cf. John 19:15) were [1] Julius Caesar [2] Augustus [3] Tiberius [4] Caligula, and [5] Claudius. The sixth was Nero (54-68 AD), and the next emperor was Galba, who reigned for only six months before he was murdered (Again see Part 1).

3. The beast was to have a mouth like a lion (Rev. 13:2).

The apostle Paul, referring to his trial before Nero, testified that he was “rescued from the lion’s mouth” (II Timothy 4:16-17).

4. One of the beast’s heads was to receive a mortal wound, but the beast’s wound would be healed, causing the whole earth to marvel “as they followed the beast” (Rev. 13:3, 12).

Nero committed suicide in June 68 AD, bringing an end to the blood line that had sustained Rome since it had become an empire. His death was followed by chaos and civil war, causing the empire to nearly collapse, and Josephus testified that “every part of the habitable earth” under the Romans “was in an unsettled and tottering condition” (Wars 7.4.2). The next three emperors (Galba, Otho, and Vitellius) each reigned considerably less than a year, each tried desperately to resurrect Nero’s image and authority, and it was only when Vespasian came to power in December 69 AD that Rome stabilized and became more powerful than ever (See Part 2 and Part 3).

5. The “whole earth” would worship the beast, extolling it as incomparable and overwhelmingly powerful to any who would dare to oppose it. Only those whose names were “written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain” would not worship the beast (Rev. 13:4, 8; 17:8).

See Part 2 for the very pronounced and extravagant worship demanded by, and received by, Nero during and after his reign. This included offering sacrifices to Nero’s spirit in the public square even after his death. One statue of Nero stood more than 110 feet high, and coins and other inscriptions hailed him as “Almighty God” and “Savior.” He was hailed as Apollo, Hercules, “the only one from the beginning of time,” and even rulers from other lands had to publicly worship both Nero and his images which were set up on lofty platforms. As for the reference to “the whole earth,” this can either be understood as referring to the Roman Empire (cf. Luke 2:1), or to Israel (See my 3-part study outlining nearly 20 cases in Revelation where the context seems to demand that the expressions “the earth” and “those who dwell on the earth” be understood as dealing with the land of Israel/Palestine rather than to the entire planet [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

6. The beast was to be given authority “to make war on the saints and to conquer them” for a period of 42 months. The scope of his authority would be “over every tribe and people and language and nation” (Rev. 13:5-7).

It’s a historical fact that Nero began to persecute the Christians throughout the Roman Empire in mid-November 64 AD. This intense persecution only ended when Nero committed suicide in June 68 AD. Thus he made war on the saints for a period of exactly 42 months. See Part 1.

7. The saints were called to endure and remain faithful in light of the fact that the beast who so often wielded the sword would himself be killed by the sword (Rev. 13:10, 14).

In June 68 AD Nero ended his life by thrusting his sword through his own throat, with the help of his personal secretary, Epaphroditus, in part because he realized that his popularity had waned and also because of an attempted coup (See Part 1). Nero lived by the sword, and died by the sword. Tertullian [145-220 AD] credited “Nero’s cruel sword” as providing the martyr’s blood as seed for the church. At one point he urged his readers to “consult your histories; you will find there that Nero was the first who assailed with the imperial sword the Christian sect.”

8. The beast from the sea would be given much support from a second beast (“from the earth”), which would compel “the earth and its inhabitants” to worship the first beast. An image of the first beast would be given breath, so that it might “even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain” (Rev. 13:11-15).

Paul Kroll (1999), of Grace Communion International, notes that early church writers Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (among others) wrote of Simon Magus (mentioned in Acts 8:9-24) being able to bring statues to life in the first century AD. Kroll remarks that it was common during this era for statues to be deemed able to speak and perform miracles. The Roman historian Dio Cassius records in detail how a foreign king, Tiridates, literally and publicly worshipped Nero and his images in one particular conference. A number of ancient and modern historians insist that those who refused to do so, both during and after Nero’s reign, were executed.

David Chilton (quoting from Austin Farrer’s 1964 work) points out that these executions were carried out not only by Roman authorities, but also by Jewish authorities aligned with Rome: “[The Jewish leaders] organized economic boycotts against those who refused to submit to [Nero] Caesar as Lord, the leaders of the synagogues ‘forbidding all dealings with the excommunicated,’ and going as far as to put them to death” (See Part 3).

Much more is written on this in Part 2 (See especially View #3, as the reference to “the earth” here again likely indicates that Israel was in view).

9. No one would be able to buy or sell unless he had the mark of the beast on his right hand or forehead, “that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Rev. 13:16-17).

C. Marvin Pate and Calvin B. Haines Jr. (1995) record that those who worshipped Nero “received a certificate or mark of approval – charagma, the same word used in Revelation 13:16.” Richard Anthony (2009) adds these details: “All those under the jurisdiction of Rome were required by law to publicly proclaim their allegiance to Caesar by burning a pinch of incense and declaring, ‘Caesar is Lord’. Upon compliance with this law, the people were given a papyrus document called a ‘libellus’, which they were required to present when either stopped by the Roman police or attempting to engage in commerce in the Roman marketplace, increasing the difficulty of ‘buying or selling’ without this mark (emphasis added).” See Part 3.

10. John’s first-century readers, if they had wisdom and understanding, were to be able to identify the beast by calculating his number, which was “666.” John wrote this as if the beast was already in power as he was putting these things down in writing (Rev. 13:18).

In Hebrew gematria, which John’s readers would have been familiar with (given the vast number of Hebrew references in Revelation), Nero’s name (NRWN QSR) = 666. The values of these seven Hebrew letters are 50, 200, 6, 50, 100, 60, and 200, respectively, adding up to 666. John’s code would have utilized the Hebrew language rather than Greek or Latin in order to avoid detection from Roman authorities, being that he had been exiled to Patmos (a Roman prison island) by Rome.

Nero’s name also adds up to “616,” which some early manuscripts refer to as the number of the beast because of a later transliteration into Latin. In this case “Nero Caesar” = 616 in Latin just as “Neron Caesar” = 666 in Hebrew, so Nero’s identity is confirmed by both renderings. See Part 3.

It is likely that even more prophecies concerning the beast will be seen to have been fulfilled in Nero’s day once we examine Revelation 17 in more detail. For now, though, I would like to close out this series on Revelation 13 by re-posting the “brief study on the Antichrist” which appeared in Part 2:

Revelation 13 seems to be the first passage one thinks of when considering the person popularly known in American church culture as “the Antichrist.” Other passages which are rightly or wrongly said to speak of “the Antichrist” are II Thessalonians 2 (“the man of sin”), Daniel 9:24-27 (the 70 Weeks Prophecy), and Daniel 11:36ff. However, it’s most interesting to note that none of these passages even mention the term “Antichrist.” This term can only be found in two books, both written by John, but neither of them being the book of Revelation. Here are the passages where this term is found: [1] I John 2:18 [2] I John 2:22 [3] I John 4:3 [4] II John 7.

In these passages, which hardly any Dispensationalist will go to in a discussion of the Antichrist, John makes the following points: [1] His readers had heard that “antichrist is coming.” [2] Many antichrists had come, indicating that it was the last hour (in John’s day). [3] Anyone who denies the Father and the Son, or that Jesus is the Christ, is “the antichrist.” [4] The “spirit of the antichrist” was in the world in John’s day, and was characterized as denying that Jesus is from God. [5] “The antichrist” is anyone who does not “confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.” Such a person is a deceiver, and many such persons existed in John’s day.

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Our study of Revelation 14 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

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16 thoughts on “Revelation Chapter 13 (Part 5: Ten Fulfilled Prophecies)

  1. Some very interesting stuff in here Adam, especially regarding the statues coming to life and the certificate received for worshipping Nero, enabling one to buy and sell. Without knowing this kind of history, we would have no choice but to apply these prophecies to our future.

    Considering Jerusalem as being the great prostitute, no doubt you have also considered the Roman Catholic Church fulfilling that prophecy. Other than how it fits in with the other aspects of the beast prophecy as you’ve described in this article, is there anything else that makes Jerusalem/Israel a better fit for the harlot, than the RCC?

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    • Thanks, Vincent. Yes, I’ve seen the view that the Roman Catholic Church fulfills the prophecy of the harlot. One key argument for the harlot being Jerusalem/Israel is that the harlot is also repeatedly called “the great city,” and “the great city” is first mentioned in Revelation 11:8 and is said to be “the city where our Lord was crucified.” Jesus, of course, was crucified in the vicinity of Jerusalem.

      The harlot, a.k.a. Babylon the Great, a.k.a. the great city, is said to be full of the blood of God’s saints, prophets, and apostles (Revelation 16:3-6, 17:1-6, 18:20-24). Jesus told the religious leaders of Israel in His day that they would be held responsible for this very bloodshed, and that judgment would fall on Jerusalem in His own generation (Matthew 23:29-37).

      The description of the harlot in Revelation 17 also draws on the imagery and symbolism of the high priest. This article discusses that relationship in more depth:

      http://kloposmasm.com/2009/12/13/revelation-chapter-17-part-1-verses-1-6/

      There are also numerous parallels between Old Testament Israel and the harlot/Babylon in Revelation 18:

      http://kloposmasm.com/2010/01/18/revelation-18/

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  2. Adam, the points above are all very compelling, and I think they point us in the right direction, but I think there is more to it than that.

    As you know, certain references to the beast appear to be to a single man, other times an empire or even a spirit. Almost the same can be said for the false prophet. In particular their presence on judgment day and the similarities between the mark of the beast and the mark of God, tell me that these are eternal entities that have always existed and can not die, even in the lake of fire. Just as death itself can not die, but be only annulled, made irrelevant. Imagine trying to destroy the number 7. It can’t be destroyed because it’s a concept, not a thing.

    I think it’s likely that the beast is the spirit of anti-Christ in general which has always existed but was manifest in the Roman Empire, and specifically Nero, and that the false prophet is false religion in general, which includes sorcery of which Simon was an adherent. (coincidentally, I believe both are manifest in the RCC).

    What are your thoughts on that?

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    • Hi Vincent. Thanks for sharing those thoughts. Duncan McKenzie, author of “The Antichrist and the Second Coming” (Volumes 1 and 2), has shared similar thoughts here at this blog, making a case that the beast was ultimately a spirit being. I’m somewhat up in the air on that subject, but I do believe that the false prophet (beast from the land) of Revelation 13 was limited to the first century and related to old covenant Israel. This is not to say that the Church today doesn’t face off with the spirit of anti-Christ or entities that oppose it like the beast(s) did in Revelation 13.

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      • Yes. John saw this beast “coming up out of the earth” (Rev. 13:11), while the other beast rose up out of the sea (Rev. 13:1). Some translations say “land” instead of “earth,” and this follows a pattern in Revelation where many references to “earth” or “land” are related to the land of Israel. The Gentiles were represented by “the sea.” (A number of scholars have recognized this same pattern in Isaiah’s book.) See this 3-part series for more on this pattern:

        [1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/the-earth-as-a-common-reference-to-israel-in-revelation-part-1/
        [2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/the-earth-as-a-common-reference-to-israel-in-revelation-part-2/
        [3] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/the-earth-as-a-common-reference-to-israel-in-revelation-part-3/

        Later the beast from the land is called “the false prophet” (Rev. 19:20), which draws on Israel’s history of being influenced and led astray by false prophets within its midst. John saw the land beast, or the false prophet, deceiving “those who dwell on the earth…” (Rev. 13:14) in cooperation with the beast from the sea. In Jesus’ day, we can see that the Jewish population as a whole was willing to pledge allegiance to Rome (John 19:15). Here’s an interesting quote by the late David Chilton about this:

        “The Jewish leaders, symbolized by this Beast from the Land, joined forces with the Beast of Rome in an attempt to destroy the Church (Acts 4:24-28; 12:1-3; 13:8; 14:5; 17:5-8; 18:12-13; 21:11; 24:1-9; 25:2-3, 9, 24)… The Book of Acts records several instances of miracle-working Jewish false prophets who came into conflict with the Church (cf. Acts 8:9-24) and worked under Roman officials (cf. Acts 13:6-11); as Jesus foretold (Matt. 7:22-23), some of them even used His name in their incantations (Acts 19:13-16).”

        Acts 4:24-28 is particularly interesting. There we see that Peter and John were persecuted by [1] “the Gentiles” and “the peoples” (verse 25) [2] “the kings of the earth” and “the rulers” (verse 26). In verse 27 “the kings of the earth” are identified as none other than Herod and Pontius Pilate. We know that Herod and Pilate did not reign over the entire globe, including South America and Europe, but only over Israel. This is just one example outside of Revelation where “the earth” is clearly identified with Israel (another is Luke 21:23).

        How devoted were the Jewish people to Rome prior to the Roman-Jewish War? We have this testimony from Josephus: “The Jews responded to the favors of Rome…by offering ‘sacrifices twice every day for Caesar, and for the Roman people’” (Josephus, Wars 2:10:4; cf. Daniel 11:31, 12:11).

        So I believe the picture painted in Revelation 13 was unique to that time period prior to Rome turning on old covenant Israel, the harlot, and destroying it.

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  3. 70 AD Jerusalem is the most important evangelistic tool in the Christian’s arsenal. Jesus made a bold and daring prediction that the Jewish temple would be destroyed within the life time of his generation. If wrong Christianity does not grow beyond its nesting stages, and Jesus is labeled a false prophet. Everything hanged upon this prediction. Totally relevant, nothing is more important than the correct interpretation of Scripture.

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  4. Does it never bother anyone that the Book of Revelation is supposed to be about prophecies of “what must come to pass HEREAFTER”.

    So, having been written in 93 AD, how can the Beast 666 be Nero? He was already dead when the prophecy was made? To save you looking it up, he died in 68 AD!

    The same problem applies when identifying the “Woman with 12 stars giving birth to a male Child” as being “Mary giving birth to Jesus”, which was an event already nearly a hundred years in the past when the prophecy was made!

    Is it any wonder that the interpretation of the rest of the prophecies in Revelation go downhill after that and end up in a terrible mess of total world destruction at the end?

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  5. Preterists assign an early date to the writing of Revelation. Revelation 11 serves as the time text for the book, the temple is still standing.

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  6. My same objection applies to Nero being identified as the Beast 666 even if The Book of Revelation was written in AD 65-68 rather than the generally accepted 93 AD.

    It could hardly be claimed to be a vision of “what is to happen HEREAFTER” (Rev Ch 4;1) if it had happened in the past or was currently happening. That would be a “News Bulletin”, not a “Revelation”

    Are you saying that God does not know what HEREAFTER means?

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  7. I presume you know what you mean but to me and probably many others your comment is totally unintelligible. Would you care to explain?

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  8. I thought not. Words just tumble out of your mouth and you think they sound clever, but when examined carefully, even you know they mean nothing!

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